Maybe the U.S. military has been too focused on drones, Army leaders are now saying.During the past two years, "our work has been very 'unmanned-centric,'" John Davis, chief of advanced aviation design at the Army Research, Development and Engineering Command, tells National Defense magazine. "Within the last few months, I think we have been really trying to evolve back into a balance between the manned and the unmanned systems.""Perhaps the pendulum swung too far in favor of unmanned systems," Maj. Gen. Joseph Bergantz adds.Specifically, Davis and Bergantz want to reinvigorate the Army's helicopter programs. That's sure to draw fire from some critics, who think big parts of the Army's rotorcraft fleet (like the Apache helicopter) should be scrapped.OR TOO FEW? "The Pentagon plans to aggressively expand its inventory of tactical and smaller UAVs, Dyke Weatherington, a Defense Department official in charge of unmanned systems, tells Aviation Week. The number of tactical-class UAVs is likely to grow from fewer than 200 to more than 500 in the next several years, with annual spending on unmanned aircraft likely to reach $3-4 billion. In the small-UAV category, the Pentagon has already begun increasing its inventory, with recent orders for around 1,700 such vehicles, he said. They include the Army's and Air Force's Raven, the Marine Corps' Dragon Eye and USAF's Desert Hawk."Strategy Page notes that "While the RQ-4A Global Hawk UAV flew only four percent of the recon missions during the Iraq campaign, it located 55 percent of the time sensitive targets." Why? Because the Hawk has bigger, more sensitive sensors than other drones. And it can linger in the air for much, much longer.
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