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Innovation from the Sea: A Net Assessment of the Development of U.S. Navy Unmanned Aerial System Policy

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Technical Report

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US Army Command and General Staff College Fort Leavenworth United States

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The U.S. Navys contributions to the development of Unmanned Aerial Systems UAS since the dawn of aviation are well documented, but the policy driving these developments remains historically under-examined. The goal of this thesis, therefore, is to perform a net assessment of how the Navy has both adopted and modified its policy regarding UAS development and employment since the advent of the technology, from the early years of aviation to the present day. In order to form a thorough and objective argument, the research examines the Navys specific approach to UAS policy across this time period from an operational, political, and intra-service perspective. Based on the research conducted in this thesis, the Navys approach to UAS policy and its subsequent integration were influenced by external political pressures, perceived enemy threats, the limitations of unmanned aerial technology, and most significantly, internal community discord and weak advocacy. Despite the challenges of imposed jointness on multi-service UAS development by Congress, the threat posed by Soviet capabilities, and the technological challenges of operating in a maritime environment, the most significant impediment to the Navys integration of UAS has been the Navy itself. However, in the face of growing anti-accessarea denial A2AD threats, the Navy must actively work to overcome its intrinsic biases towards UAS in order to leverage both manned and unmanned assets to meet the challenges of the 21st century.

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