Navy carrier drone program to cost billions

Posted at 8:43 PM, Jul 17, 2013
and last updated 2013-07-17 20:43:15-04

The success rate for the Navy's new drones actually landing aboard aircraft carriers is 50%. Program leaders consider that to be “passing with flying colors.”

NewsChannel 3 showed you the first two successful landings last Wednesday aboard the USS George H.W. Bush.

What you didn't see was the third attempt that was scrubbed after a navigational computer onboard the drone failed.

Salty Dog 502, as it's called, sent itself to Wallops Island to land instead.

Still, the Navy wanted to try and finish the program's stated objectives to get three successful “traps” at sea.

So Salty Dog 501, the second drone twin, took off on Monday from Maryland, but had to turn back before reaching the Bush, after what the Navy calls a minor test instrumentation issue.

Program leaders say the drone did what it was supposed to do in the event of a malfunction, and they are confident they collected all the data needed to move the program forward.

Now a new class of drones will be built by 2020, but at what cost?

The price tag for Salty Dog 501 and 502's 50% success rate was $1.4 billion.

So how much money will it take to outfit the carrier fleet?

The Navy hasn't released much information, but NewsChannel 3 uncovered budget documents from February of 2011 where the Navy gave Congress a potential price tag of $2.5 billion over four years.

The Navy's Request for proposals to develop the new drone technology will go out in August to four different defense companies.

They plan to pick a winner by the end of 2014.


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