NORFOLK -- Some members of Congress are concerned that the Navy may not be developing a grand enough vision when it comes to its drone program.
Specifically, they're worried the Navy is focusing too much attention on reconnaissance and intelligence gathering, while they contend that the robotic planes could be used more for offensive strike missions.
'There are some within the Pentagon that just want to narrow this down, that don't want it competing with manned aviation,' said House Armed Services Seapower Subcommittee Chairman Randy Forbes (R-Virginia, 4th District). 'What we've asked the Pentagon to do is let the Secretary of Defense just have a second look at this to make sure that we're heading in the right direction.'
In fact, as part of the just-passed National Defense Authorization Act, Congress has halted all funding until Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel can conduct a top-to-bottom review.
Last summer, the Navy rolled out the X-47-B Unmanned Aerial Vehicle aboard the USS George H.W. Bush. At the time, the Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Jonathan Greenert praised the program.
'It was a miraculous technological feat,' he said.
Greenert and Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus said the UAV's would be used for a variety of missions, including, eventually, combat strike missions.
Today, the Navy's Chief of Information reiterated that stance.
'Unmanned aviation is undoubtedly a critical facet to the future of Naval war-fighting,' said Captain Dawn Cutler. 'In the not-too-distant future, our carrier air wings will consist of unmanned drones operating alongside our piloted aircraft. To that end, Secretary Mabus is pushing ahead with the U-Class to develop an aircraft capable of multiple mission and functions including precision strike in a contested environment.'