Military drones are cheap, but they could certainly stand to be a whole lot cheaper. At least, that’s the rationale behind an Air Force solicitation for a “Low Cost Attritable Strike UAS Demonstration,” posted online yesterday. To encourage the design of a cheap and deadly drone, the federal government is willing to reimburse up to $7,450,000 for developing the concept in 30 days.
As they fit into the existing military air fleet, drones like the Predator and Reaper are cheaper than, say, $100+ million F-35s, but that doesn’t mean they’re exactly ependable. Reapers cost about $13 million each. The moderately cheaper Gray Eagle, which is about a half-step between the original Predator and the Reaper, runs about $5 million per drone.
It’s been 15 years since Lockheed Martin first won its production contract. The F-35 Lightning II has faced more than a few technical problems and cost overruns, but it’s nearly done overcoming those hurdles.