Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV's) are emerging as the next generation of Airborne Reconnaissance. Technological advances in aeronautics, electronics, materials, data processing and propulsion are converging to produce a very capable family of UAV systems that will enable the collection and near-real time dissemination of information, while minimizing risk to soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines. The unique ability of UAVs to penetrate hostile airspace and dwell over a target area is considered essential by the Force XXI warfighter and will complement the capabilities of other airborne assets in providing commanders a total battlefield picture.
Equally important is the control and flexibility of UAVs. We are currently developing a family of UAVs that is tactically-oriented, survivable and supportable. This family of UAVs is a primary factor in enabling commanders at every level to control their fight. The Tactical UAV (or Outrider UAV) focuses on the close battle, providing targeting, situation development and battle damage assessment in direct response to the brigade/Task Force (TF) commander. The Air Force-operated Predator UAV focuses on the deep battle, supporting the division out to 150 Km and the Corps battle out to 300 Km. Predator and Global Hawk endurance UAVs will provide the theater commander with wide area surveillance assets that loiter over the battlefield for extended periods of time at greatly extended ranges. Each program brings unique attributes to the battlefield mix, but as a group they will help the Army gain the information dominance that is essential to all patterns of operation. Each will be described separately, but not to be lost in the discussion is that all are necessary, complementary parts of the UAV family.
The Predator UAV, flown by the Air Force, will operate throughout the battlefield area, forward of the line of troops, day and night, and in most weather conditions.