No slowing down: U.S. Air Force buys more Global Hawk drones, Army awards contract for small drones
By Madison Ruppert
Editor of End the Lie
Despite the fact that the United States has a completely absurd amount of public debt and a growing deficit, the U.S. military continues to pour funds into its drone arsenal with two new Global Hawk drones for the U.S. Air Force and an Army contract worth up to $248 million for small drones.
These drones are not only operating overseas, they are also already being used in the United States where the military is sharing data with law enforcement and the Pentagon has identified 110 potential bases for drone operations.
The military is also heavily investing in the future of drones with ground-based lasers capable of enabling perpetual drone flight, sensors capable of capturing 36 square miles in a single image, new long-distance solar-powered drones, systems capable of automatically spotting and tracking individuals from 25,000 feet, drone-fired EMP missiles, drone-based facial recognition systems and of course training facilities.
The U.S. Air Force now has a total of 37 Global Hawk drones, produced by Northrop Grumman Corporation, after receiving two more in late November, according to ASDNews.
“Global Hawk’s ability to fly more than 30 hours at high altitudes while gathering multiple types of intelligence data makes it extremely valuable to field commanders who need near real-time information,” said George Guerra, the vice president for Global Hawk unmanned aircraft systems.
In 2012 alone, three new Global Hawks were purchased by the Air Force and “five previously delivered aircraft completed installation of additional sensors that will allow them to gather multiple types of intelligence data during a single mission.”
In a 2010 budget, four Global Hawks were valued at over $552 million, although that price likely does not include sensors, maintenance, etc.
The military’s Global Hawks are used quite often and have “logged more than 80,000 flight hours and has been used over battlefields in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya” along with supporting “intelligence gathering and reconnaissance efforts following the devastating earthquakes that struck Haiti and Japan,” according to ASDNews.
Northrop Grumman is also working on “a company-owned unmanned aircraft for use as a development and demonstration platform for at-sea surveillance under the U.S. Navy’s MQ-4C Triton program.”
The Triton is aimed at providing a highly detailed image of surface maritime vessels and identifying threats across large regions with the ability to fly for up to 24 hours uninterrupted.
“The aircraft will initially be used to further testing efforts for the Navy as we prepare Triton to be operational in late 2015,” said Steve Enewold, Northrop Grumman’s vice president and program manager for Triton.
“Eventually, we will use the aircraft as a test bed to improve system performance, incorporate new intelligence-gathering capabilities and conduct demonstrations,” said Enewold.
In addition, the U.S. Army as awarded AeroVironment, Inc. and four other companies a contract worth up to $248 million to support “continued procurement and support of small unmanned aircraft systems” for the Army, according to an AeroVironment press release.
One of the ways in which AeroVironment is looking to expand domestically is with the “Qube” drone, a small drone “tailored to law enforcement, first response and other public safety missions,” according to AeroVironment.
“Small enough to fit easily in the trunk of a car, the Qube system can be unpacked, assembled and ready for flight in less than five minutes, giving the operator a rapidly deployable eye in the sky at a fraction of the cost of manned aircraft and large unmanned aircraft,” states the AeroVironment release.
The Army’s contract will allow for continued procurement of the RQ-11B Raven and RQ-20A Puma AE systems produced by AeroVironment, along with other competing long- and medium-range small drones.
“This new IDIQ [Indefinite Delivery Indefinite Quantity] contract provides for continued procurement of small UAS, reflecting the high value of this capability,” said Roy Minson, AeroVironment senior vice president and general manager of its Unmanned Aircraft Systems business segment.
Clearly the U.S. military is not going to stop buying up these drones any time soon and the fact that we will see drones used in the U.S. on an increasingly frequent basis just means that these companies will continue to enjoy massive contracts like these.
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