HomeNewsArticle Display

Unmanned aircraft take on increased importance

The U.S. military's expanded overseas use of unmanned aircraft highlights the increased importance of such aerial platforms to current and future military operations. The Unmanned Aircraft Systems Flight Plan was announced July 23 and will serve as a template for how the Air Force will look in 2047 - the 100th anniversary of the U.S. Air Force. (U.S. Air Force illustration)

The U.S. military's expanded overseas use of unmanned aircraft highlights the increased importance of such aerial platforms to current and future military operations. The Unmanned Aircraft Systems Flight Plan was announced July 23 and will serve as a template for how the Air Force will look in 2047 - the 100th anniversary of the U.S. Air Force. (U.S. Air Force illustration)

WASHINGTON (AFNS) -- The U.S. military's expanded overseas use of unmanned aircraft highlights the increased importance of such aerial platforms to current and future military operations, senior Air Force officers said here July 23.

The Unmanned Aircraft Systems Flight Plan announced July 23 will serve as a template for how the Air Force will look in 2047 - the 100th anniversary of the U.S. Air Force -- Gen. William M. Fraser III, the Air Force's vice chief of staff, told reporters at a Pentagon news conference.

"The future of our systems is really now," General Fraser said. "The Air Force today looks dramatically different than it did 35 years ago when I first came aboard on active duty."

The flight plan, he explained, lays out the Air Force's "vision for maximizing our efforts in unmanned aerial systems" today and in the future.

"We'll continue to push the UAS envelope," General Fraser said, adding that unmanned systems are unmanned in name only.

"While there may be no Airmen onboard the actual vehicle, there indeed are airmen involved in every step of the process," General Fraser said, including the pilots who operate the vehicles' remote controls and sensors and maintenance personnel.

Unmanned aircraft systems "represent an important addition to our comprehensive set of Air Force capabilities that actually define air power," General Fraser said.

Lt. Gen. David A. Deptula, the Air Force's deputy chief of staff for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, told reporters that unmanned aircraft systems have proven effective during aerial strike missions against insurgents in Afghanistan and Pakistan, while also performing surveillance and intelligence-gathering missions.

Persistent flight capability, General Deptula said, is one of the advantages of employing unmanned aerial vehicles in military missions.

"What UASs bring to the table," General Deptula explained, "is the ability to stay in position or maneuver over large areas for a long period of time - that's where a person in an aircraft becomes a limitation."

UAS mission success rates have resulted in high demand for the unmanned aerial platforms, General Deptula said, noting that high- and medium-altitude UAS overseas combat missions have increased more than 600 percent during the past six years.

"What the Air Force wants to do," General Deptula said, "is to get the most out of these systems to increase our joint warfighting capability, while promoting service interdependency and the wisest use of our taxpayer dollars."

Yet, General Deptula said, the flight plan isn't just about how UASs are employed today, but also about how unmanned aerial technology could be applied in different mission realms in order to confront future challenges. For example, he said, UAS technology could one day be used in a modular platform that could perform a variety of tasks, such as cargo transport and aircraft refueling missions.

General Deptula equated today's level of UAS development with the progress made in manned aircraft in the 1920s.

There's "lots of potential" for expanding UAS technology across the military in the coming years, General Deptula said, but he also pointed out that replacing conventional fighter planes and pilots with unmanned aerial vehicles is a long way off.

The flight plan doesn't provide specific solutions, but it does address "concepts and possibilities that will fill in and morph over time," said Col. Eric Mathewson, the director of the Air Force's UAS Task Force.

The plan, Colonel Mathewson said, "allows us to reach out and talk to academia and industry, the other services, [Defense Department]-wide, our coalition and allied partners, and work together in a more efficient and synergistic way."

Engage

Facebook Twitter
The innovative thoughts & immediate actions of #JBER #Airmen ensured the Alaska Mission Operations Center had water… https://t.co/hl0zIIa05q
.@NCAirGuard #Airmen and @914ARW Reservists combined recipes for a rare hands-on experience. https://t.co/IAZ6LYrtzO https://t.co/WtjF4fITxh
Bringing the #futurefaster! @Offutt_AFB #Airmen bring ideas to life, build partnerships with academia through a ne… https://t.co/ujNSaBZxEL
Check out Years in Photos for 2018! Which is your favorite? https://t.co/bIHYI8aFCk https://t.co/B2K842alnA
.@AirNatlGuard #Airmen refreshed their skills in self-aid buddy care, #EOD recognition & chemical warfare decontami… https://t.co/t5z0UtzeGa
.@SECAFOfficial and @GenDaveGoldfein stress the importance of projecting airpower over the #Arctic.… https://t.co/dLg0DGDWZL
RT @USAFHealth: Don’t let your dreams of becoming a doctor be stopped by financial burdens. Staff Sgt. Clifford Mua, Medical Technician, 12…
#HurricaneMichael created nearly 15M Ibs of scrap & over 450 uninhabitable buildings @TeamTyndall. Defense Logistic… https://t.co/nS72x3KRxa
#PATRICKAFB #Airmen streamline transportation & shipping operations to efficiently manage its fleet of vehicles and… https://t.co/zV2rTW7vQh
#ICYM what's happening #AroundtheAirForce: Space Flag 19-1, #AirForce Pitch Day, and Alaska @AirNatlGuard rescue mi… https://t.co/XMD9Ex058l
An #AirForce B-2 Spirit bomber takes off from @JointBasePHH, Jan. 14, 2019. Bomber aircraft regularly rotate throug… https://t.co/VFh0VRJLN4
Calling all #Airmen! The #AirForce seeks game changing innovations through the inaugural Vice Chief of Staff Challe… https://t.co/jLBsAs5pvA
RT @GenDaveGoldfein: Today I had the chance to sit at the controls of our next training jet & meet with the dedicated team building the T-X…
Airfield management #Airmen are on the flight line every day upkeeping all runways, taxiways, aprons and infields t… https://t.co/hldtrFFmie
CORRECTION: Col. Joe Jackson, a USAF Medal of Honor recipient, passed away Saturday. Jackson's amazing story includ… https://t.co/3QRZdCoywd
RT @AirmanMagazine: The @usairforce is accelerating the acquisitions process, getting new capabilities into our warfighters' hands faster.…
Aerial porter #Airmen use Tunner 60K Loaders to ensure these mission essential necessities make it to their final d… https://t.co/JJQGKp3DE2
Defenders who have donned the blue beret understand what is asked of them. Specifically, the training they must com… https://t.co/roTOT3Erkq
#NorthCarolina @AirNatlGuard #Airmen install and validate satellite communications during Operation Deep Freeze in… https://t.co/4qp1QGx4Kg