North American military drone policy update
The USA has established organized Pacific and Atlantic surveillance UAV squadrons (of 12-24 aircraft each) for the first time, for border and sea lane monitoring. These are a variant of the Northrop-Grumman MQ-4 drones I mentioned the other day, which Japan are also buying. The order establishing the program can be found via Cryptome here. Cryptome has also published the locations of the bases from which they will fly, Ventura Country naval base in California and and Mayport naval base near Jacksonville in Florida.
It is increasingly seeming like UAVs will continue to form the core of Obama’s military strategy, and it seems no coincidence that he has nominated John Brennan, described as the ‘architect’ of his drone policy, to be the new head of the Central Intelligence Agency.
Meanwhile, Canada is more likely to have widespread use of drones by police and the private sector before it gets any military models. It was reported just at the end of last year that the Canadian military drone program is now not likely to be in operation until 2017 and the cost has gone up to over $1Bn (Can). This doesn’t seem to have attracted anything like the attention that has been given to the ingoing farago surrounding the Canadian government’s attempt to purchase US Lockheed F-35 fighter jets, although admittedly that is no estimated as being something in the region of 50 times as expensive…
(Thanks to Chris Prince for keeping me updated on this!)