Not Progressive

The Air Force has been heavily invested in the development of unmanned aerial vehicles since the 1950s, often in secrecy, Thomas Ehrhard, special assistant to the Air Force Chief of Staff, said Wednesday. Yet UAVs have been “a cyclical phenomenon” during that span, “not progressive,” he told attendees at his AFA-sponsored presentation in Arlington, Va. He discussed his study, Air Force UAVs: The Secret History (caution; large-sized file), that he prepared for AFA’s Mitchell Institute for Airpower Studies. “There is a big interest in them and, for whatever reason, . . . they go through a down period,” he explained of the UAV cycles. Even now, while the perception may be that UAVs have exploded onto the scene and their presence will only grow, “that’s not the way history has gone and that’s not the way it will go,” Ehrhard contended. The next down cycle may come “when we start to withdraw from operations in Afghanistan, possibly,” he said.