Given the chaotic defense budgetary environment, one could be forgiven for overlooking the fact that some truly strategic issues are at play in the defense authorization bill markup taking place in Congress this week.
One key issue involves how Congress deals with the Navy’s poor choices in the development of a future carrier-based drone, or in Pentagon-speak, the Unmanned Carrier-Launched Airborne Surveillance and Strike, or UCLASS, program. The Navy made a mistake by issuing requirements that guarantee the fleet will receive a lesser drone than it could be getting. The Navy is asking for a carrier-version of non-stealthy surveillance drones that operate in uncontested (friendly) airspace. That costly decision will prevent the development of a true, surveillance-strike drone that can operate where they truly will be needed, in enemy airspace.
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