Impact of Unmanned Aerial Systems on Joint Operational Art   [open pdf - 941KB]

"The use of Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) by the United States (US) military has expanded significantly during the last twenty years. Operations in Afghanistan and Iraq in particular have cemented their place in the military's force structure. This monograph examines the history, contemporary operations, and future vision of UAS development and operations to quantify how UAS affect operational art for air, land, and maritime forces. The USAF and various agencies of the strategic intelligence community dominate UAS operations and development in the air domain. These professionals historically develop highly sophisticated, capable, and expensive systems, and make little distinction between aircraft based being manned or unmanned. Because of that, their operational approach for UAS employment does not vary significantly from that of manned aircraft. However, because UAS operations are not as politically sensitive as manned aircraft, airmen have a history of operating them in third party countries and are thus able to extend operational reach. The US Army and US Marine Corps (USMC) dominate UAS development and operations by land forces. Soldier and marines focus on using UAS to support tactical ground maneuver and fires units by providing Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (ISR) to tactical ground commanders. This helps these commanders improve their operational tempo by making better decisions faster. However, operations in Afghanistan and Iraq demonstrate how the large quantity of information produced by UAS have a degree of friction that can actually slow down operational tempo. The US Navy (USN) dominates development and operations of UAS for maritime forces, and historically focuses on using unmanned systems in support of utility missions and naval gunfire support. Until recently, the USN did not attempt to develop UAS for carrier operations, which presents a potential risk to the USN's ability to project force into the operating environment defined by the Department of Defense's 'Joint Operational Access Concept'."

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