UCLASS to be Descoped for CBARS Conversion AKA MQ-25 Stingray
December 31/20: Ground Control Boeing won a $198 million contract modification, which provides for the integration of a ground control station that provides command and control capability in support of the MQ-25 air vehicle for the Navy. The Boeing MQ-25 Stingray is an aerial refueling drone. In early December Boeing has flown its MQ-25A test asset (T1) with an aerial refuelling store under its wing for the first time. Earlier this year the US Navy exercised an option to acquire three additional MQ-25 air vehicles, bringing the total aircraft Boeing is initially producing to seven. The Navy intends to procure more than 70 aircraft, which will assume the tanking role currently performed by F/A-18s, allowing for better use of the combat strike fighters. Work will take place in Missouri and various locations within the continental US. Expected completion will be in August 2024.
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 – Today
FY 2008 – 2009
FY 2005 – 2007
Additional UCAV Readings
News & Views
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