Missed Opportunity or Just OBE?

A new Government Accountability Office report exploring unmanned aerial vehicle commonality finds that the Air Force and Army “have made limited progress” in merging their respective MQ-1 Predator and MQ-1C Sky Warrior unmanned aerial vehicle programs despite OSD’s 2007 directive to do just that. Back then, OSD told the two services to integrate these programs, using the newer Army MQ-1C platform as the baseline configuration. GAO noted that the Air Force is planning to procure five MQ-1C airframes, based on recent OSD direction, but is still assessing whether it will purchase any additional MQ-1Cs, since USAF now prefers to procure MQ-9 Reapers beyond this fiscal year. [OBE = overcome by events] In the July 30 report, GAO questioned the need for the Army to pump nearly $570 million into Sky Warrior development even though it will have “similar capabilities” to the Predator. The Sky Warrior is slated to enter low-rate production in November, but reliability issues with the original synthetic aperture radar model forced the Army to select another model, which, GAO said, “greatly increases risk” because it will not be ready until after the Sky Warrior finishes initial operational testing in September 2011. And as recently as May, the Army recognized that the MQ-1C’s much-vaunted automatic takeoff and landing system is still immature technology.