The US Air Force (USAF)'s plan to seize control of almost all American flying killbots has been rebuffed, according to reports.
At present, a wide variety of remote-controlled and/or autonomous aircraft are operated by all four branches of the US military*. The USAF has been pointing out for some time that this can lead to inefficiencies, as it might be possible to buy fewer types in larger numbers.
Strangely enough, the USAF's plan for a more efficient future involved an air force takeover of all drones/robots etc operating above an arbitrary ceiling of 3,500 feet. This could have given the men in light blue control of the navy's future carrier wings and maritime patrol planes, not to mention the many aerial flesh-harvesters so beloved of Army and Marine grunts and special ops types.
In effect, it would have been a massive skybot power grab, by a service which is institutionally far from sympathetic to aerial drones.
At first, the scheme seemed to be gaining some traction, but now it appears that Deputy Defense Secretary Gordon England has put the kibosh on it in a memo issued last week. However, he does intend that competing Army and USAF programmes involving the "Predator" drone from General Atomics should be combined and include a common datalink.
The Army Predator (or "Sky Warrior") is planned to operate without significant use of remote handling by qualified pilots, being able to land itself autonomously. Thus far, USAF Predator operations have involved a large number of wings-on-chest types, usually working in shifts. Exactly how the differing philosophies will be resolved isn't clear.
Some more detail is available from Aviation Week.®
*Note to non-US readers: the US Marines normally count as a separate service. Probably fair enough, as they are about the size of two British services combined.