900 production lab

Inflection Point: Increasing the Global Military Prowess Gap

April 29, 2024

By Wahid Nawabi, AV’s Chairman, President and CEO

A recent report highlighted the disturbing fact that the militaries of Russia and China now follow closely behind the United States in terms of military prowess. The Global Firepower rankings were determined by a variety of factors, including but not limited to troop numbers, military equipment, and available resources. The bottom line is that our near-peer adversaries are trailing closely behind in their military capabilities, and if we do not put the necessary investment into further strengthening our defense industrial base, our national security will be put at risk. Rather than scaling back, the U.S. needs to invest in, develop, and field disruptive capabilities to increase the military prowess gap, and maintain its military superiority and global leadership.

Thanks to ongoing collaboration between industry, DoD and Congress, we feel confident in the direction the U.S. defense industry is heading – namely, embracing innovative new ideas and working together to overcome perceived and real obstacles to strengthening our national defense.

Recent statements by top Pentagon officials have demonstrated that autonomous systems are becoming a major part of military strategy for both the DoD and our allies. AeroVironment (AV) is the leader in autonomous systems and has delivered reliable, high technology readiness level (TRL), combat tested autonomous systems for over three decades. Our autonomous portfolio includes solutions ranging from stratospheric aircraft to submarine-launched loitering reconnaissance systems, to loitering munitions, to ground robots, and the command-and-control architecture to operate them all.

AV and companies like AV can be instrumental in widening the military prowess gap between the U.S. and our adversaries. Low inventories of fielded systems within the DoD put the U.S. at risk of falling behind in various theatres across the globe. Current and emerging conflicts such as in Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan demonstrate the necessity of reliable, fielded systems available to support from U.S. stockpiles to shore up defenses and maintain a tactical and operational edge on the battlefield. Delays in both contracting and funding are hampering efforts to meet the current threat environment.

Urgency is high across the globe and so is priority of our systems. In an effort to stay ahead of global threats, AV has invested heavily in increasing our production capacity, and we continue to build on this to surpass the current and future demand expectations of our customers.

AV has the manufacturing capacity to deliver distributed intelligent autonomous platforms for warfare at scale today, not tomorrow. We can produce tens of thousands of units at the level of rigor and performance the DoD and our allies have come to expect. We've delivered thousands of Switchblades in the last two years alone and believe that we're the only company that can produce loitering munitions at that rate today. Additionally, we're looking into new sites, facilities and expansion plans to go above and beyond current abilities.

Our book-to-build timeframe is very fast – a perfect example is when we delivered our first order of Puma UAS for the Ukraine war within 27 days. Our lead times are typically 90 days and we’re continuing to invest in our processes to continue this upward trend. Demand for our solutions is robust across the globe and we’re ready and qualified to rapidly deliver capabilities to warfighters.

By level loading our factories’ production throughout the year, we have achieved greater operational efficiencies while expanding throughput. AV has demonstrated market-leading manufacturing capacity for autonomous systems, and we continue to invest in facilities, people and processes to prepare for even greater demand in the future.

The world is at an inflection point, and the U.S. must be ready and willing to embrace the paradigm shift from traditional battlefield systems toward a distributed autonomous portfolio and affordable loitering munitions to increase operational efficiency. Partnering with companies that provide these disruptive technologies is instrumental in ensuring our troops are appropriately equipped and can be the key to unlocking battlefield superiority across the globe.