Unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) and the effects they provide have emerged as one of the most "in demand" capabilities the USAF provides the Joint Force. The attributes of persistence, endurance, efficiency, and connectivity are proven force multipliers across the spectrum of global Joint military operations. This document presents a USAF Unmanned Aircraft Systems Flight Plan 2009 to 2047. It is an actionable plan, characterized by Doctrine, Organization, Training, Materiel, Leadership and Education, Personnel, Facilities, and Policy (DOTMLPF-P) recommendations, balancing lessons learned with future requirements. The vision is the USAF postured to harness increasingly automated, modular, globally connected, and sustainable multi-mission unmanned systems resulting in a leaner, more adaptable and efficient air force that maximizes our contribution to the Joint Force.
The USAF UAS Flight Plan describes a family of unmanned aircraft consisting of small man-portable vehicles, including micro and nano-sized vehicles, medium "fighter sized" vehicles, large "tanker sized" vehicles, and special vehicles with unique capabilities, all including autonomous-capable operations. The concept is to build a common set of airframes within a family of systems with interoperable, modular "plug and play" payloads, with standard interfaces, that can be tailored to fit one or more USAF Core Functions in support of the Joint Force's priorities.
The methodology behind this Flight Plan was to integrate present and anticipated future requirements from across the Combatant Commands, Office of the Secretary of Defense, and the other Services. The USAF Core Functions were used to define desired unmanned aircraft capabilities and effects. Recommendations for synchronized and sequenced DOTMLPF-P solutions are provided to help ensure that UASs continue to be the Joint Force multipliers and enhancers they are today while carefully bounding risk.
Specific policy implementation will ensure that the USAF is capable of leading, investing, acquiring, and employing UAS. Recommended actions include the creation of a high fidelity simulator with the goal of transitioning to simulator-only operator initial qualification training (IQT); establishing standard UAS interface data rights for the fielding of service-oriented open-system architectures; developing and procuring new command and control systems based on new open architecture; implementing independent logistics assessments (ILA); demonstrating and implementing technologies supporting airborne sense and avoid (ABSAA), auto takeoff and land capability ( ATLC), small unmanned aircraft systems (SUAS) air launched capability, electronic attack (EA) capability for UAS, high altitude airships (HAA) and tech demonstration of MQ-M (medium sized) like modular payloads for UAS. These actions will be linked with other Service efforts whenever practical to provide truly Joint capabilities to the warfighter at the lowest total cost.
It is imperative to develop Airmen who are experienced in UAS employment and operations. Employment of these systems is increasingly complex and personnel require the necessary training and opportunities for advancement that will create a cadre of future USAF leaders. This Flight Plan presents options for UAS career paths to build a foundation for the development of officer and enlisted aircrew with UAS experience. Such a path is needed to meet the future challenges facing the USAF and the Joint Force through 2047.