Ramon Lopez/ORLANDO

The much-awaited US Department of Defense UAV Master Plan, which will serve as the roadmap for future US military unmanned air vehicle (UAV) procurement, is being finalised for public release in September.

Diane Wright, the DoD official developing the plan, says it responds to a directive from US Defense Secretary William Cohen for "demonstrable progress in the UAV area in the next 24 months".

A senior DoD official expects "a meaningful roadmap" that will set funding priorities across the services. He says it will make "tough choices and funding adjustments".

During the past two years, the US military has taken the programme planning and execution lead. "While the services' efforts have been very good, we believe we may have missed some opportunities for jointness and inter-operability along the way," says Wright.

"Moreover, our extended vision for UAV technologies may have suffered due to intra-service budget constraints and conflicting service priorities and programmes," Wright says. "A consolidated master plan should serve to alleviate some obstacles and bring more opportunities to the forefront."

She says last year's Kosovo air campaign was "the most extensive combat use of UAVs. As a result of the operation, our UAV experience increased the military's comfort with unmanned systems." Wright adds: "UAVs are demonstrating their capabilities above and beyond our original bounds. We are looking to the future and defining where we want to proceed with UAV technology but the road ahead is not without challenges."

Source: Flight International