UAVs are top of President George W Bush's agenda to transform the US military, says a top Pentagon official.

"We have strong support from the new administration," says Kevin Meiners, director of intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance systems. "We have long-terms plans and objectives defined. UAVs are poised to lead the ongoing transformation of the US military."

Speaking at the Shephard Press Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Conference, Meiners predicts that by 2005 the US would have more than 200 UAVs in its operational inventory, compared with 30 in 1991. "UAVs are battle-tested and ready to go," he says. "President Bush says we need to be able to strike across the world with long range bombers and UAVs. "Congress says that in 10 years a third of all US operational deep strike aircraft will be unmanned. When Secretary of Defence Donald Rumsfeld talks about transformation, one of the words that comes of out of his mouth is UAVs."


Meiners reveals that Rumsfeld's review of America's defence requirements has been looking at a penetrating "stealthy" UAV, raising the prospect of the re-launching of the Lockheed Martin Dark Star UAV that was cancelled by the Clinton administration. He, however, says there are still question marks over how a UAV remains stealthy when fitted with active sensors such as synthetic aperture radar.

A major challenge for UAVs is how to integrate them into national and international airspace control systems. It is Meiners ambition that UAV ‘pilots' will eventually be able to file flight plans in the same way as conventional pilots.


At the moment the US Federal Aviation Authority wants 60 days' warning to file a flight plan to fly UAVs in its airspace and for last year's flight to Portugal by Northrop Grumman's Global Hawk 14 months notice had to be given, says Meiners.

Reliability and affordability must also be improved, adds Meiners. "We have to keep the cost down so when a Predator crashes we don't have to wake up the President to say we've lost a multi-million airplane. "Reliability had to be improved so the FAA can be confident that they will not fall out of the sky."

Source: Flight Daily News