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Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) have been used successfully in recent combat operations, such as operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom. These successes have confirmed the military utility of UAVs and portend that a greater number of such vehicles may become part of the DoD’s future force posture. However, because of the rapid acquisition strategy used to get these UAVs into the field as quickly as possible, the implications for their long-term support needs are unclear. The authors examine current support postures for UAV systems, such as Global Hawk and Predator. Through this examination, it became clear that there is a gap between traditional methods of determining logistics requirements and rapid acquisition processes. A balance needs to be struck between providing a new capability rapidly and the effects of that on long-term support of that capability. Some of the areas the Air Force will need to consider for future developments are budgeting to resolve issues that arise during testing and evaluation, training issues, and planning for standardization with future use of spiral development.

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The research reported here was sponsored by the United States Air Force and conducted by RAND Project AIR FORCE.

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