Pentagon draws 25-year plan for expanding drones

WASHINGTON: The Pentagon has sent a new roadmap to the US Congress, seeking greater support from the lawmakers for unmanned weapon systems in current and future conflicts.

The “Unmanned Systems Integrated Roadmap,” sent to Congress on Monday, establishes a technological vision for these weapons for the next 25 years.

The report points out that unmanned aerial vehicles, better known as drones, have been particularly effective against the militants in the Afghan war.

The expected withdrawal of US combat troops from Afghanistan in 2014 will further enhance the importance of these unmanned weapons, the report adds.

“Unmanned systems continue to prove their value in combat operations in Afghanistan, where military operations are planned and executed in extremely challenging environments,” the Pentagon tells Congress.

“After US forces begin withdrawal from Afghanistan in 2014, commanders expect to focus on contingency missions where the United States may have no established presence,” says the report while explaining why it feels the drones will continue to play a key role after the withdrawal as well.

The report says that America’s adversaries are using “increasingly unconventional means,” taking cover in the surrounding populations, and employing asymmetric tactics to achieve their objectives.

“In future conflicts, we must be prepared for these tactics as well as for a range of other novel methods … (and) approaches (for) blunting US power projection,” the Pentagon warns.

The report claims that unmanned systems are better suited than manned platforms in such circumstances.

Dyke Weatherington, the director of the unmanned warfare and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance office at the Pentagon, says that the roadmap sent to Congress seeks greater congressional indulgence in this future technology.

The report “articulates a vision and strategy for the continued development, production, test, training, operation and sustainment of unmanned systems technology across the Department of Defence,” he told the American Forces Press Service.

“Unmanned systems will be critical to US operations in all domains across a range of conflicts, both because of their capability and performance advantages and because of their ability to take greater risk than manned systems,” says the Pentagon report.

The report tells the lawmakers that since unmanned systems have proven their worth on the battlefield, the Pentagon “has allocated an increasing percentage of its budget to developing and acquiring these systems.”

“The Department of Defence is looking beyond Iraq and Afghanistan towards a world of rapid deployments to trouble spots where airfields may not be available.”

The report to Congress calls for increasing “the levels of effectiveness, efficiency, affordability, commonality, interoperability, integration and other key parameters” of these unmanned weapons to meet future operational requirements.

In the future, unmanned vehicles will be required to operate in more complex environments involving difficult weather, terrain, distance and airspace. All this will require extensive coordination with allies and host nations, the report adds.

http://www.dawn.com/news/1076221/pentagon-draws-25-year-plan-for-expanding-drones

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