Wall Street Journal: Navy Catches the Drone Bug

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Date Published: 
May 14, 2013
The Wall Street Journal

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Drone programs across the military have escaped rounds of deep defense budget cuts as military commanders favor unmanned systems in a growing number of missions.

The Army and Air Force each already have large drone fleets, but defense analysts say there still is an argument to be made for naval drones. Naval aviation "is inherently more flexible than land-based aviation," said Christopher Harmer, an analyst at the Institute for the Study of War, a think tank generally supportive of investments in the military.

Unmanned vehicles currently have fewer capabilities than manned aircraft in combat settings, and advances to close the gap are years away, said Mr. Harmer. But drones have proved superior in conducting surveillance owing to their ability to remain aloft for long periods.

Navy officers and outside analysts say the arrival of drone flight to aircraft carriers will extend a carrier group's range because the X-47B can fly roughly double the distance of a manned F-35C fighter.

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