The US Navy is developing its plan for unmanned vehicles and is focusing on prioritising commonalities across drones and unmanned vessels, as the service increases its investment in unmanned vehicles it will increasingly face problems of network capabilities and will spend less on specific platform centred capabilities. Instead, the Navy is likely to spend more on payloads which can be installed on multiple platforms, as well as investing in a unified control system.

William Davies, Associate Aerospace and Defense analyst at GlobalData comments: “Focusing on commonalities will drive investment in drones in the coming years, the Navy is developing a new campaign plan and attempting to fill gaps in its kill chain. The Navy has significant plans for investment in unmanned vehicles and is calling for $12bn in unmanned spending for the years 2021-2025.

Significantly, this plan for the Navy is focused on tying disparate development plans into a comprehensive strategy, as well as developing a network to control them with. Congress in 2020 pushed back on naval plans to move forward on developing large unmanned vehicles, in part because they felt that the Navy’s strategy on their development was not clear enough and this plan will go some way to remedying this.

The Dod is pushing for a shift away from large surface combatants, and decisions made by Secretary Esper have prioritised unmanned vehicles, but the Navy itself requires a more comprehensive investment plan before Congress provides its full support.

Davies continues, “This plan will likely increase investment in data capabilities, and research into how future unmanned vehicles will be integrated into a Naval internet of things will be critical to the development of future programs. Both surface and underwater vessels will be affected by these developments, and developing common standards for autonomous vehicles will enable more innovation.”