July 25, 2014

Carrier-based drone offers way forward for US navy – subject to squabbling

By Michael Horowitz

Source: The Guardian

Journalist(s) Spencer Ackerman

Barely a year after the world's most sophisticated drone proved it could take off and land on the deck of an aircraft carrier, the project is at a crossroads, with huge implications for the future not only of drone warfare but US seapower writ large.

The US navy will soon release a request for proposals from a handful of defense companies for the development of the Unmanned Carrier Launched Airborne Surveillance and Strike vehicle, or UCLASS. That highly bureaucratic document will formalize the navy's vision for what it wants the highly advanced drone to do.

But that vision is already coming under fierce criticism, as academics, former defense officials and legislators charge the navy with holding a myopic view of the drone’s possibilities. The service, they say, is on the verge of missing a historic opportunity to secure America’s massive advantage in naval aviation against the threats to its aircraft carriers of the coming decades. And with the carrier fleet a stand-in for American power, small changes in requirements for the UCLASS can have global implications.

The navy rejects that criticism entirely, arguing that the system its critics want UCLASS to be is unaffordable and would place the enterprise in jeopardy.

Read the full article at The Guardian.

  • Michael Horowitz

    Adjunct Senior Fellow, Technology and National Security Program

    Michael C. Horowitz is an associate professor of political science and the associate director of Perry World House at the University of Pennsylvania. He is also an adjunct sen...