There is a raft of companies in the unmanned vehicles sector, but one in particular is becoming a major player almost by stealth: Internet services giant Google.
Google’s programs in unmanned systems go far beyond its high-profile work to develop a self-driving car. That initiative passed a milestone last month with the unveiling of a prototype, a 25-mph vehicle with only two interfaces, “start” and “stop.”
Fallout from the 2008-09 financial crisis continues to affect political decisions worldwide, leaving militaries to assess how best to plan and prioritize in an era of austerity.
The British military, for one, has two goals as it restructures: to move from a decade of combat operations to a period of contingency; and to redesign a shrinking fighting force around a dramatically increased reliance on reservists. All three services are feeling the pinch of austerity pressures, but they are likely to impact the army acutely.
Difficult choices will need to be made soon by NATO partner nations if the alliance is to maintain its airborne early warning and command/control (AWACS) capability into the middle of the century.
The alliance operates its own multi-nationally staffed and funded Boeing 707-based E-3A component. But because NATO draws on British, French and American E-3 fleets, it faces a set of choices complicated by the different configurations of aircraft each nation operates.