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Drone corps proposal would disrupt US military's plans, undersecretary says

Drone corps proposal would disrupt US military's plans, undersecretary says
Drone corps proposal would disrupt US military's plans, undersecretary says

 


A House committee proposal to create a drone corps within the military could run counter to the services' efforts to expand tactics, training and spending on unmanned aerial systems in some operational units, according to an Army official.

The House Armed Services Committees' defense policy bill for fiscal year 2025 includes a provision directing the military to create a drone corps, essentially a branch to oversee all UAS and countermeasures programs. drones. The branch would be responsible for integrating these systems across the Army; provide specialized training to units; and lead research, development, testing and evaluation efforts.

Under the arrangement, the drone corps would join the military's 17 specialized branches, which focus on areas such as aviation, cyberspace, infantry and munitions.

Gabe Camarillo, the deputy secretary of the Army, said May 17 that he understood lawmakers' interest in having the services focus on unmanned systems because of their proliferation in conflicts in Ukraine and the Middle East. -East. However, he added, creating a dedicated branch for this work is not the right approach, at least for now.

Operating and defending against the drone threat is something all multi-echelon formations will be expected to do, he told reporters following an event with the Center for a New American Security think tank .

Specializing in just one branch of drones to handle operations of these capabilities, he added, goes against what we've been focusing on, which is that we're experimenting with different parts of different formations to understand how use them as best as possible.

Not only would the proposal disrupt the Army's strategy, Camarillo said, but he also doesn't expect it to result in more resources for unmanned systems, or help the service purchase drones faster.

The institutional implications, to me, are secondary at this point to determining how we are going to use the technology, what technology works best and, most importantly, have we set up our purchasing processes so to be able to go ahead, he said.

The service has spent about $1.8 billion on counter-drone capabilities since fiscal 2017, and Camarillo said it expects that to increase in the service's budget request for the fiscal year 26.

Much like crafting the 26th budget, investing in counter-UAS is definitely an area of ​​focus for all Army leaders, he noted. Our goal is to ensure that we have sufficient capabilities to be able to deal with these threats, with a focus on [research and development] side, maturing these technologies that will help us add more capacity to the inventory and reduce the cost curve.

The Army is also putting more emphasis on acquiring small commercial drones weighing less than 55 pounds. The FY25 budget request includes $25 million for units to purchase off-the-shelf systems validated by the Defense Innovation Units Blue UAS program, designed to certify that commercial drones ordered for military purposes are cyber -secure and do not include technology from Chinese suppliers.

DIU, which is a Pentagon technology center, has approved 15 systems under the Blue UAS program since its launch in 2020. The organization is also expanding the pool of drones available to military buyers.

Camarillo said this effort is a first step in helping the Army more quickly purchase commercial systems that meet requirements.

We recognize that technology cycles evolve very quickly, he said. We seek to structure our ability to purchase these capabilities so that we can keep pace with technological change.

Courtney Albon is C4ISRNET's space and emerging technologies reporter. She has covered the U.S. military since 2012, focusing on the Air Force and Space Force. She reported on some of the Department of Defense's most significant acquisition, budget and policy challenges.

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