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CBO Outlines Options for Expanding Military Drone Programs

06/10/2011 - 

The Department of Defense (DoD) wants more unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), or drones, because they've proven their worth in strikes against al Qaeda targets in Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas. How to afford them is the question that the Congressional Budget Office addresses in a new report.

The DoD has requested that an additional $37 billion worth of UAV technology be added to their arsenal between now and 2020. The Congressional Budget Office analyzed options for acquisition and upgrading Air Force and ArmyUnmanned Aerial Vehicle program and outlined the eight alternatives in a report published on Thursday.

“We were tasked to look at what where the best things we could do within that budget,” Bernard Kempinksi of CBO’s National Security Division tells Security Management.

The difference in cost among the alternative options ranges from $2.9 billion more than the requested budget to $3.7 billion less (achieved by buying fewer UAVs).

According to the report, "Three of the options would improve capabilities – as measure by the weight the fleet of aircraft can carry (its payload) and the time the aircraft would be able to remain in the air (its endurance) – for the same costs as the DoD’s plans. Two options would improve capabilities but would also increase acquisition cost, and three options would reduce cost but would also yield some reduction in capabilities."

The Air Force has 40 new Reapers (one type of drone) coming in 2011. The Army plans to buy 20 more RQ-7 Shadows, a UAV used for surveillance and directing artillery, while upgrading existing Shadows to include laser targeting systems, according to the report. They also have plans to purchase 107 Grey Eagles, a medium altitude UAV with attack capabilities.

Through 2026, the Navy hopes to purchase 65 Global Hawks and 168 MQ-8 Firescouts.

Recent News:

June 10 –Drones strikes in Pakistan kill more than 50 peoplein one week from The Bureau of Investigative Journalism

June 06 – The San Francisco Chronicle, The Pentagon says Northrop'sGlobal Hawk Drone is unfit for duty

photo bysancho_panzafrom flickr