The Department of Defense has released its long term procurement plan, which reveals that UAV force is expected to double by 2021.
The Army’s got a Reaper-esque drone called Gray Eagle. The Marines want a similar UAV as part of their “Group 4 Unmanned Air System” program. The Navy’s so-called Unmanned Carrier-Launched Airborne Strike and Surveillance initiative aims to put a jet-powered killer drone onto carrier decks no later than 2018. Around the same time, the Air Force could begin buying its own jet-powered attack ‘bot to complement the prop-driven Reaper.
By the end of the current decade, the Air Force should have enough medium and large drones to maintain at least 65 ’round-the-clock “orbits,” compared to 48 today. Add UAVs from the other services, and you’re looking at 100 or so permanently on-station killer drones, watching and waiting to swoop down with precision-guided bombs and missiles.
The manned aircraft inventory is expected to remain steady and in case you were wondering the venerable B-52 is expected to stay in service for another few decades.