THE US DEPARTMENT of Defense is deciding whether to follow a Joint Requirements Oversight Council's recommendation to terminate the $4 billion Hunter Joint Tactical unmanned air-vehicle (UAV) programme.

The view of the influential Pentagon advisory body could be the final nail in the Hunter's coffin. The programme was already under fire from opponents.

The short-range Hunter remains grounded, pending completion of an investigation into three testing mishaps in August.

The US Army may be forced to choose between the Hunter, which fulfils the short-range requirement, and the Maneuver (close-range) UAV, according to Dennis Reimer, the US Army's chief of staff.

"Whether we have the ability or the money to afford the short-range and close-range, I don't know. I think that's the real issue," he says.

The Hunter is also criticised by US Navy opponents, who favour instead deployment of the General Atomics Predator UAV on USN warships.

The US Army, USN and US Marine Corps are all scheduled to field the Hunter. The current plan calls for purchase of 50 systems, including 18 for the USN. Each includes eight air vehicles and related ground equipment.

Source: Flight International