Navy Secretary Ray Mabus has decided to make unmanned systems a top priority and wants the service to "be viewed as the leader in unmanned systems," the top uniformed acquisition officer said at a UAV air show.
"We will work closely with other services but the Navy has every intention of being the leader in UAVs," Vice Adm. David Architzel, principal deputy assistant SecNav for research, development, and acquisition, said at the beginning of the show in southern Maryland as part of AUVSI's Unmanned Systems 2009 conference.
This was said with full knowledge of the Air Force's aborted effort in 2007 to become the executive agent for UAVs. Architzel made clear his service was not aiming to become executive agent but would build the best underwater and air unmanned systems.
He spoke against the backdrop of Webster Field, the Navy's test field for UAVs in St. Inigoes, Md., filled with dozens of tactical and strategic UAVs, some of them demonstrating long loiter times and the ability to land without a controller guiding them in.
Among the displays was a mock-up of Northrop Grumman's UCAS, a futuristic unmanned vehicle currently being developed to operate from carriers. The first UCAS is slated for first flight and then a year of flight testing in November or December at Edwards Air Force Base, according to Capt. Martin Deppe, UCAS program manager.