US: Unmanned systems and the platforms that use them are under constraint in the fiscal year 2015 defense budget, which was capped by Congress last year at USD 496 billion. US Defense Department officials have recently announced that they were seeking USD 293.1 million to acquire MQ-1B Predators and MQ-1C Gray Eagles — down from more than USD 590 million sought for the General Atomics Aeronautical Systems unmanned aircraft sought the year before. Lower numbers were also on the Pentagon's budget request this year for AAI Corp.'s RQ-7 Shadow, the AeroVironment RQ-11 Raven and the Boeing Insitu RQ-21 Blackjack, with USD 238.1 million in the budget this year compared to USD 252.5 million a year earlier.
The Air Force has decided to dump the high-flying but ancient manned U-2 spy plane and is returning to the Northrop Grumman RQ-4 UAS for high altitude intelligence, reconnaissance and surveillance. The Pentagon is asking Congress for USD 1.08 billion, compared to USD 762.7 million last year for the Global Hawk, its MQ-4 Triton maritime variant and the NATO AGS variant. The Navy plans to acquire four Tritons a year between fiscal 2016 and 2019 for a total of 16. The Navy also intends to acquire eight more small tactical unmanned aircraft systems (STUAS) between 2017 and 2019 for ship and land-launched reconnaissance missions. The Pentagon is also cutting back on the number of Littoral Combat Ships (LCS) the Navy will acquire, from 52 to 32 over the decade. The LCS, designed to operate in shallow coastal waters, comes in two variants, Freedom, made by Lockheed Martin and the Independence version manufactured by Australian shipbuilder, Austal, have had firepower, crew manning and vulnerability issues.