Future Trends

Navy Seeks Low-Cost, Consumable Combat Drones

Cooperative combat

Navy Seeks Low-Cost, Consumable Combat Drones

The U.S. Navy has outlined plans to acquire artificial intelligence-enabled “cooperative combat aircraft” at a targeted price of $15 million each, prioritizing affordability and rapid deployment over extended lifecycles.

Rear Adm. Stephen Tedford, program executive officer for unmanned aviation and strike weapons, emphasized the Navy’s plan to avoid the high sustainment costs associated with traditional weapon system acquisitions at the Navy League’s Sea-Air-Space conference, DefenseScoop reported.

The emphasis is on developing drones viewed as “consumable” assets rather than long-term platforms. Tedford stressed that the Navy envisions fielding CCAs with short operational lifespans, potentially as brief as a few hundred flight hours, followed by use as either targets or weapons.

In line with the Pentagon’s Joint All-Domain Command and Control concept, the approach, Tedford explained, would enable rapid technology upgrades to keep pace with evolving threats.

The Navy’s cost-focused strategy also focuses on reducing requirements for aircraft carrier launches and recoveries. Compared to manned fighters, CCAs would have considerably lower carrier takeoff and landing cycles throughout their lifespans. According to Tedford, the strategy relaxes engineering constraints and further contributes to cost savings.

The Navy aims to field the initial CCA iteration before 2030 and is collaborating with Australia on related manned-unmanned teaming technologies.

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Category: Future Trends

Tags: CCA drones Department of Defense Future Trends Stephen Tedford unmanned aerial systems US Navy