Title: A Moderate Course for USAF UAV Development

Subject: An examination of post Vietnam USAF UAV acceptance as well as a recommended UAV course for future USAF UAV development.

Author(s): Michael W. Kennedy; Lance A. Forbes (Faculty Advisor)


Abstract: USAF unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) advocacy from 1980 to date has swung from an apparent disinterest in UAV systems to an aggressive acceptance of UAVs to solve mission needs. However, continued UAV programmatic setbacks indicate an appropriate UAV course for the Air Force remains to be charted.

Tactical UAV programs between 1980 and the early 1990s conspicuously lacked USAF involvement and demonstrated a sub-par evolution of UAV capabilities, technology, and development. However, spurred by concern over mission loss to sister services, USAF demonstrated a mid-1990s new found interest in UAVs despite the less-than-proven performance of previous UAV systems.

USAF UAV acceptance was embodied in four UAV end states and two High Altitude Endurance (HAE) UAVs. However, continued setbacks with HAE UAV programs soon impacted USAF's ability to meet UAV end state timelines as well as USAF commitment to UAV funding. HAE UAV miscues indicate the USAF UAV course charted after its mid-1990s UAV acceptance was founded on unproven technology.

Consequently, this paper recommends a moderate USAF UAV course founded on proven technology and conservative investment. This moderate UAV course is enabled by a "wait and see" approach with the ongoing HAE UAV Advanced Concept Technology Demonstration (ACTD). The "wait and see" approach commits minimal USAF funds to HAE UAVs pending successful HAE UAV technology demonstration.

Last updated 1999 May 11