The US Department of Defense needs to develop new unmanned aircraft that can survive inside contested airspace, as it shifts focus toward the Pacific - but the services must invest in new technologies to seamlessly share intelligence data.
There is growing recognition inside the halls of the Pentagon that the massive fleet of unmanned aircraft that the country has amassed over the past decade may face irrelevance in light of the growing anti-access/area denial (A2/AD) challenges emerging in the western Pacific and the Middle East.
Northrop Grumman will likely base its UCLASS pitch on the X-47B
"As budget pressures increase and manpower levels potentially decrease, the ability to access and share intelligence information from any/all cross-service, cross-domain, and intelligence community ISR [intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance] assets will become even more important," says a senior US Air Force official. "While we're clearly not there yet, that appears to be where most in the DoD and intelligence community are heading."
But while sharing data seamlessly will be vital, gathering that surveillance data is becoming increasingly difficult with the proliferation of advanced air defences. For the US Navy, that problem is complicated by advanced anti-ship cruise and ballistic missiles.
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