The Pentagon has to cut a lot of costs. Humans are expensive. Humans need to eat and sometimes they get sick. But drones? They can fly and kill for hours—so the military's ordering a ton to replace flesh.
The WSJ reports that as a result of the government being broke and spending too much on guns, the Army alone will drop over active duty 100,000 soldiers. But at the same time, we're ordering 30% more drones—enough to prowl the skies in a serious way:
The Air Force now operates 61 drone combat air patrols around the clock, with up to four drones in each patrol. [Secretary of Defense] Panetta's plan calls for the military to have enough drones to comfortably operate 65 combat air patrols constantly with the ability to temporarily surge to 85 combat air patrols, officials said.
Eighty five drones at once? That's serious lethal overwatch, and possibly far more effective than boots on the ground in nebulous warzones like Pakistan's borders and Somalia. The drone buildup, which the WSJ says will happen over the next few years, will be joined by the expansion of small, light UAV airstrips, allowing sudden pounce attacks and the aforementioned 24-hour patrols.
This is the military of the future, not a temporary trend. Even if the Pentagon's hand weren't forced by tightening (though still thick) pockets, drones have been undeniably effective fighting both terrorists and political entities like Taliban. Drones are cheap—drones kill well. And when a drone crashes, nobody mourns. [WSJ]