Pentagon Plans to Spend $37 Billion on Drones
Tuesday, January 17, 2012
Budgetary plans by the Department of Defense demonstrate that the U.S. military plans to spend heavily this decade on unmanned aircraft.
Between now and 2020, the Pentagon intends to spend nearly $36.9 billion on a variety of drones. Two of the most costly programs are the MQ-9 Reaper and the Global Hawk.
As of February of last year, the military had received 65 Reapers from General Atomics Aeronautical Systems. In time, the Defense Department plans to buy nearly 400 of the remote-controlled aircraft that can reach an altitude of 50,000 feet and spend 32 hours in the air. The Reaper also can unleash considerable firepower, capable of carrying 16 Hellfire missiles—as many as the Army’s Apache helicopter. The average unit cost for a Reaper system is $26.8 million.
The military intends to purchase more than 80 Global Hawks from Northrop Grumman, at a per drone cost of $141 million. Nearly the size of a corporate private jet, the Global Hawk can fly higher than the Reaper (up to 65,000 feet) and stay aloft for as long as 35 hours. Plagued by serious cost overruns, the Global Hawk is supposed to provide “a long-dwell presence over the battlespace, giving military commanders a persistent source of high quality imagery.”
U.S. Unmanned Aerial Systems (by Jeremiah Gertler, Congressional Research Service) (pdf)
The Crash and Burn Future of Robot Warfare (by Nick Turse, TomDispatch.com)
Drones are a Growth Industry (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)
Foreign Governments Line Up to Buy U.S. Drones (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)
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