The Navy has led the use of unmanned aircraft—drones or unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs)—among the U.S. military services. In the World War I era, the service experimented with radio-controlled aircraft and had a major drone program during World War II. 1 Both the Army Air Forces and Navy used explosive-laden, war-weary aircraft as radio-controlled attackers at the end of World War II, with the Navy continuing their use (from carriers) during the Korean War. But all of these were “one-way” attack aircraft.
Aircraft-launched drones—intended to “come back”—were flown on reconnaissance missions over North Vietnam in the 1960s and 1970s. In the same period, the Navy developed and procured 732 drone antisubmarine helicopters (DASHs) that were deployed from cruisers, destroyers, frigates, and escort ships. 2