US$9.6 Billion Equates to Just 1.4% of Budget Request
The Association of Unmanned Vehicles Systems International (AUVSI) recently published its own analysis of the unmanned systems portion of the US 2019 National Defense Authorization Act – the U$716 billion behemoth about to embroil Washington in the usual flurry of pork barrel politicking.
“…air is receiving the largest funding support, with the budget for unmanned aircraft reaching almost $7 billion in FY2019, followed by $1.5 billion for counter unmanned systems (C-UxS), $1.3 billion for unmanned maritime vehicles and $0.7 billion for ground robotics. From FY2018 to FY2019, the budget for C-UxS technologies almost doubles [….] Cross-domain operations of air and ground unmanned vehicles are supported by the largest number of projects. Over 60 percent of these efforts are funded by the US Army. The US Navy is also working to provide solutions for interoperability and teaming of unmanned vehicles across multiple domains as they support over half of the projects involving operations in all domains (air, ground, and maritime),” the report states.
The DoD is sponsoring some 90 separate counter-drone projects, some centred on the modification of existing missiles while others focus on directed energy or electronic warfare solutions; these programmes share some $1.5 billion in funding. Elsewhere the Defense Advanced Research Pojects Agency (DARPA) is sponsoring the Multi-Azimuth Defense Fast Intercept Round Engagement System (MAD-FIRES) which envisions the use of munitions sufficiently agile for complex intercept geometries but cheap enough to be treated like bullets – albeit silver ones. A US Air Force project to exploit ISR signatures of UAS has been dubbed CHICKEN LITTLE, though there is little evidence it is aimed at making the sky fall.
The diversity of programmes is in itself a proof of the relative youth of the counterdrone field. As experience and experiment determines which genre of solutions work – and which don’t – the plethora of avenues of investigation will narrow, even as the total funding continues to expand.