The United States remains, by far, the world’s leader in drone technology. A decade of extensive operational work with drones has given the U.S. military tremendous experience with the architecture, design, and employment of UAV technology. Although inter-service and inter-agency conflicts slowed the development of drones in the latter half of the Cold War, the need for airpower in the Wars on Terror has prompted a massive wave of innovation.
Every U.S. service employs thousands of UAVs, conducting missions that range from strike to ISR to communications relay. The drone campaigns over Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia have captured imaginations, and not always in a good way. Not since the use of B-52s over North Vietnam has an air campaign earned quite so much international criticism. However, these campaigns barely scratch the surface of UAV contributions to U.S. military operations.
The United States is also pushing the limits of drone innovation. However the UCLASS UAV program works out, it will provide the United States with the foundation for a carrier borne drone capability that can keep U.S .naval aviation vital. The United States has also pioneered work on stealth drones, high altitude surveillance drones, and other vehicles that fill needs across the spectrum of political and military policy.