The Big UAV Lie, Demolished

The Air Force, and nothing but the Air Force…. That was pretty much the case with respect to UAV development and deployment, according to a detailed history of UAVs from the mid-1950s onward. Air Force UAVs: The Secret History (caution; large-sized file), was written by Thomas Ehrhard, special assistant to the Air Force Chief of Staff. Ehrhard’s newly released study, published by the Mitchell Institute for Airpower Studies, shows in detail the unusual extent of the Air Force’s unmanned aircraft activities during that span. The Ehrhard monograph demolishes the widespread claim that white-scarved fighter jocks have traditionally resisted UAVs. As Ehrhard’s research reveals, the opposite was the case. Indeed, the Air Force actually contributed two-thirds of all the many billions of dollars expended on UAVs in the United States from 1954 to 2000, he said Wednesday at his Mitchell-sponsored discussion of this topic in Arlington, Va. During some periods, such as the 1960s, there was a flurry of UAV activity, often under a shroud of secrecy, rivaling what goes on today, he noted. Ehrhard also noted that the current flowering of UAVs stems directly from a push in 1995 by the then USAF Chief of Staff, Gen. Ronald Fogleman. He helped organize the effort after the collapse of a DOD-directed agency effort.