“It’s the exact same mission: looking at a wide expanse
of the ocean,” Vajda said. “It’s important to note that
we’re not creating new missions. For us, the real benefit
of a UAS, besides potential cost savings, is persistence.”
The second program is a cutter-based tactical UAS,
which has the same mission as the cutter-based helicopters.
The systems are meant to provide assistance until
the tactical commander is able to make an interdiction
with manned assets.
“We’re not replacing manned aircraft with our
unmanned fleet because our requirements are differ-
ent,” Vajda said. “We have a huge demand that’s com-
ing for more flight time, and you can either do that
with more manned aircraft that comes at a significant
cost, or with unmanned.”
The cutter-based UAS is still in the pre-acquisition
phase, so the Coast Guard has not settled on a plat-
For the land-based program, the Coast Guard has
been partnering with Customs and Border Protection
to share a marinized MQ- 9.
“We plan on doing the joint program for the foreseeable future,” Vajda said.
Ultimately, the Navy seeks to have a “family” of
unmanned systems that integrate seamlessly with
today’s fleet, Gradisher said.
To achieve that goal, the Navy has set a number of
goals, including increased access, persistence and flexibility, he added. The Navy wants every platform to be
a sensor, and every sensor to be networked.
The service also wants data to be accessible to all,
allowing commanders to quickly find and exploit necessary intelligence. And it wants common unmanned
systems, enabling the service to save costs and simplify
training and operations.
The service hopes these goals, combined with the
capabilities unmanned systems provide, will create a
balanced fleet of the future.
“The Navy’s intent is to produce a family of capable,
effective, and interoperable unmanned systems that
integrate with manned platforms and ships to provide
battlespace awareness and warfighting advantage to
commanders at all levels,” he said. ■