are racking up even more flying time in missions across Iraq and Afghanistan,
with UAV technology hardware and software development increasing at a rapid
The Pentagon is under more pressure to wrangle
out-of-control military spending after years of costly wars -- and that has led
to new innovations aimed at lower-cost UAV technology that is still fully
capable. Private contractors are scurrying to manufacture these smaller,
cheaper, yet still reliable unmanned aircraft as quickly as possible -- billions
of U.S. federal dollars are at stake in 2011 and the coming years.
Some new projects include smaller
and cheaper UAVs and munitions that are quieter and able to engage
targets at a more rapid pace. The new generation of military technologies
range from a 13-lb. smartbomb to a ground-fired mini-cruise missile able to
scout out targets to engage. Handheld UAVs also have been effective, even
Defense contractors and U.S. military leaders
continue to share information -- and resources -- to ensure the U.S. remains at
the top in UAV development.
UAV operators are skilled pilots that expertly
maneuver the unmanned aircraft to monitor and attack suspected targets.
It's a skill that the pilots focus on to help assist ground troops looking to
conduct missions after airstrikes take out specific targets. UAVs also
frequent the mountainous region between Afghanistan and Pakistan, where U.S.
military officials believe insurgents are able to sneak in fighters and
supplies. This area is extremely difficult to patrol on foot, so UAV
flight time greatly assists future missions.
The U.S. Air Force has an interactive
website focused on UAVs, including a brief video demo, and then
visitors are given the chance to play a virtual UAV game.
Initially used for reconnaissance and as a quieter
means to track the enemy from above, UAVs quickly evolved with live munitions
and GPS-guided laser bombs able to hit specific targets. The flight
times, munitions carried, flight capabilities, and other major adjustments are
being made to future generations of UAVs.
The popularity of UAVs has led to a number of
countries ordering and sharing technologies with one another. The French
Defense Ministry and Germany are interested in sharing technology with the
United States and Israel -- the No. 2 manufacturer of UAVs following the U.S.
-- as money and future weapon exchanges are agreed upon.