DOD requests $5.4B for unmanned systems budget

Defense Department seeks $870 million increase on 2009 spending

The Defense Department is seeking an increase of 18.4 percent, or $870 million, in funding for unmanned systems in fiscal 2010 over the amount spent on such systems in 2009, according to Defense Update.

An examination of the line items for unmanned systems in the fiscal 2010 budget request reveals a total of $5.4 billion, which is $870 million more than the $4.53 billion DOD plans to spend on unmanned systems in 2009. DOD spent $3.9 billion on unmanned systems in 2008.

The majority of the proposed funding for unmanned systems in fiscal 2010 would go toward unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). Relatively few dollars would fund unmanned ground systems or unmanned marine systems, Military and Aerospace Electronics reported.

Of the $5.4 billion requested, $3.55 billion would be spent on procurement of unmanned systems, and $1.82 billion would be spent on research, development, test and evaluation.

The 2010 budget request includes:

  • $608 million for five RQ-4 Global Hawk UAVs.
  • $489 million for 24 MQ-9 Reaper UAVs.
  • $651 million for 36 MQ-1 Predator UAVs.
  • $609 million for RQ-7 Shadow tactical UAV modifications.
  • $79 million for 704 RQ-11 Raven small UAVs.

As for unmanned ground vehicles, the Army plans to spend $125.6 million to continue refining the technology. The UGVs, which are included in the Army Brigade Combat Team Modernization program, include iRobot’s small UGV and Lockheed Martin’s Multifunction Utility/Logistics and Equipment system.

Although UAVs represent the most mature of the unmanned system technologies, defense experts believe that spending for unmanned ground and marine vehicles will increase sharply in the next few years as those technologies mature.

The key trends in unmanned systems design are autonomy, weapons teaming and increased capabilities, according to a recent article in Defense Systems.

From the standpoint of autonomy, contractors are working to build unmanned systems that function more as independent robots than as remote-controlled devices. In the realm of weapons teaming, for example, the Army is exploring ways in which Apache helicopters might work in tandem with Shadows and other UAVs on the battlefield. As for increased combat capabilities, the military wants to develop weapons tailored specifically to UAV missions.

As unmanned systems continue to mature and prove themselves on the battlefield, it is likely that they will take on an increasingly important function in the way the United States wages war, eventually playing an important role not only in surveillance and reconnaissance but also forces interdiction and combat alongside manned systems.

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