Unmanned systems continue to deliver new and enhanced battlefield capabilities to the warfighter. While the demand for unmanned systems continues unabated today, a number of factors will influence unmanned program development in the future.
Three primary forces are driving the Department of Defense’s (DoD) approach in planning for and developing unmanned systems.
1. Combat operations in Southwest Asia have demonstrated the military utility of unmanned systems on today’s battlefields and have resulted in the expeditious integration of unmanned technologies into the joint force structure. However, the systems and technologies currently fielded to fulfill today’s urgent operational needs must be further expanded (as described in this Roadmap) and appropriately integrated into Military Department programs of record (POR) to achieve the levels of effectiveness, efficiency, affordability, commonality, interoperability, integration, and other key parameters needed to meet future operational requirements.
2. Downward economic forces will continue to constrain Military Department budgets for the foreseeable future. Achieving affordable and cost-effective technical solutions is imperative in this fiscally constrained environment.
3. The changing national security environment poses unique challenges. A strategic shift in national security to the Asia-Pacific Theater presents different operational considerations based on environment and potential adversary capabilities that may require unmanned systems to operate in anti-access/area denial (A2/AD) areas where freedom to operate is contested. Similarly, any reallocation of unmanned assets to support other combatant commanders (CCDRs) entails its own set of unique challenges, which will likely require unmanned systems to operate in more complex environments involving weather, terrain, distance, and airspace while necessitating extensive coordination with allies and host nations.