UCLASS to be Descoped for CBARS Conversion AKA MQ-25 Stingray
July 24/17: A new draft request for proposals released by the US Navy has revealed that the service’s plans for the MQ-25 Stingray will be primarily that of a mission tanker. The draft, published on July 19, made no mention on the unmanned platform’s intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) capabilities, instead outlining the two key performance parameters (KPP) required for the aircraft’s airframes as having both carrier suitability and mission tanker capacity. As a result, the four competitors – Northrop Grumman, Lockheed Martin, Boeing and General Atomics – will only have to prove that their aircraft can take-off and land back on a carrier and do mission tanking.
The idea of UAVs with full stealth and combat capabilities has come a long way, quickly. Air forces around the world are pursuing R&D programs, but in the USA, progress is being led by the US Navy.
Their interest is well-founded. A May 2007 non-partisan report discussed the lengthening reach of ship-killers. Meanwhile, the US Navy’s carrier fleet sees its strike range shrinking to 1950s distances, and prepares for a future with fewer carrier air wings than operational carriers. Could UCAV/UCAS vehicles with longer ranges, and indefinite flight time limits via aerial refueling, solve these problems? Some people in the Navy seem to think that they might. Hence UCAS-D/ N-UCAS, which received a major push in the FY 2010 defense review. Now, Northrop Grumman is improving its X-47 UCAS-D under contract, even as emerging privately-developed options expand the Navy’s future choices as it works on its new RFP.
N-UCAS: Programs & Potential
First Step: UCAS-D / X-47B
Next Step: UCLASS
UCAS-D: Program & Team
UCAS-D: Northrop Grumman’s X-47B
Naval UCAVs: Contracts and Key Events
FY 2016 – 2017
FY 2008 – 2009
FY 2005 – 2007
Additional UCAV Readings
News & Views
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