Pentagon Budget Pursues ‘Arsenal Plane,’ Swarming Drones


The U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) will seek a $582.7 billion Fiscal Year 2017 budget that includes research and development spending on a new “arsenal plane,” swarming autonomous micro drones, and “gun-based” missile defense. A week ahead of its release by the Obama administration, Defense Secretary Ash Carter provided a sketch of the budget on February 2 during a speech in Washington, D.C.

The Pentagon seeks to spend $71.4 billion on research and development in the budget, Carter told The Economic Club of Washington, D.C. He described several projects being pursued by the Pentagon’s Strategic Capabilities Office (SCO), an entity that he created while serving as deputy secretary of defense in 2012 to rapidly field existing systems with new capabilities.

One SCO project, the arsenal plane, “takes one of our oldest aircraft platforms and turns it into a flying launch pad for all sorts of different conventional payloads,” Carter said. “In practice, the arsenal plane will function as a very large airborne magazine, networked to fifth-generation aircraft that act as forward sensor and targeting nodes, essentially combining different systems already in our inventory to create wholly new capabilities.”