Army, Homeland Security plan for unmanned aerial vehicles

The Army expects to spend much more than originally planned on unmanned aerial vehicles, a top official said this week. And the Homeland Security Department wants to spend $10 million to test UAVs next year.

The Army will spend more on UAVs now that the RAH-66 Comanche helicopter program has been canceled, Lt. Gen. Richard Cody said during a Feb. 23 media briefing at the Pentagon. The service's investment in unmanned aerial vehicles will be much more than previously planned, said Cody, the Army's deputy chief of staff of operations and top military planner. From the money that had been originally slated for Comanche, about $300 million will go to the Army's unmanned vehicle program, Cody said.

UAVs, which are flown by operators using systems located in ground trailers, look like big, model airplanes that carry cameras and sensors to monitor people and vehicle movements. The aircraft were used in Iraq and Afghanistan because they can fly over enemy territory without putting humans in danger.

Through 2009, the Army will spend $1.2 billion on unmanned aerial vehicles, according to the "United States Army 2003 Transformation Roadmap." The $300 million shifted from Comanche will increase the UAV spending to $1.5 billion by 2009 and $2.3 billion by 2011, said Army spokesman Maj. Gary Tallman in a Feb. 24 e-mail statement.

The service's spending plan indicates that the Army will spend $163.6 million on UAVs in 2005, $171.9 million in 2006, $193.9 million in 2007, $247.2 million in 2008 and $284 million in 2009.

Meanwhile, DHS officials asked for $10 million to test UAVs in their fiscal 2005 budget request. Asa Hutchinson, the department's under secretary for border and transportation security, requested the appropriation Feb. 12 when he testified before the Senate subcommittee on immigration, border security and citizenship.

DHS officials purchased three UAVs last month but did not publicly announce the purchase, according to a military official familiar with the procurement. This would mark the first UAV buy outside of the Defense Department, but a DHS spokesmen could not confirm the deal.

DHS Secretary Tom Ridge visited Dec. 4 the Army's UAV Training Center, located at Fort Huachuca, Ariz. He watched the service fly the Shadow 200 UAV for two hours, said Mark Farrar, director of the UAV Training Center, during a Jan. 29 telephone interview.

Anteon International Corp., located in Fairfax, Va., helps the Army train personnel to use the Shadow 200 UAV. The service's UAV Test Center hopes to train DHS Customs and Border Protection agency agents how to use drones to monitor U.S. borders, Farrar said.

The Army flies two UAVs: the catapult-launched Shadow 200, manufactured by AAI Corp., located in Hunt Valley, Md., and the runway-launched Hunter, built by Israel Aircraft Industries Ltd, located at Ben-Gurion International Airport, Israel, and Northrop Grumman Corp., located in Los Angeles. Cody said the service plans to buy the Raven, a small, handheld-launched UAV produced by AeroVironment Inc., located in Monrovia, Calif.

Army officials plan to arm UAVs, Cody said. The military primarily uses drones for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance. But the CIA used a UAV equipped with missiles to kill al Qaeda terrorists in Yemen in 2002.

Dibya Sarkar contributed to the report.

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