Army officials are beginning to tackle the enormous logistical task of bringing back the thousands of systems fielded for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and finding a home for them stateside.
"If the war ended tomorrow, what would we do with all of these systems?" asked Tim Owings, deputy project manager for the Army's unmanned aircraft systems, speaking to reporters at the AUVSI conference this week.
It's an especially big problem when it comes to UAVs, whose numbers grew dramatically over the past couple of years -- and they continue to grow as operations shift to Afghanistan.
The original acquisition for the Shadow platform was 44 systems, said Owings, and now it's at 116. Every system includes four actual Shadow aircraft.
The numbers for Sky Warriors are now as high as 35 to 40 and there are just "a ton of Raven systems," said Owings.
"We're getting concerned about, if the war ended tomorrow, how do we, one, continue to keep currency on all that with the soldiers, and secondly, how do we sustain the equipment stateside?"
He said the Army is beginning to look at what needs to be done to handle the future influx of these systems. It is considering such issues as military construction, hangar space and runway space, in addition to continued simulation and training for soldiers so that they can stay fluent on the systems once the equipment is stateside.
"It is an issue and it's something we're acutely aware of in terms of trying to address it," said Owings.
However, the Army doesn't expect these systems to come home overnight either, he added.
-- Kate Brannen