Boeing’s New Carrier-Launched Drone Design

Well, it looks like ths might be Boeing’splanned bid for the Navy’s next strike fighter, (after JSF, anyway) known as the Unmanned Carrier Launched Airborne Surveillance and Strike (UCLASS).

I just took this picture, showing a drawing of an advanced looking-drone under the UCLASS name, at Boeing’s booth at the Navy League’s annual Sea, Air, Space conference in National Harbor, Md. This was the first I’d seen of anything hinting at Boeing’s planned bid for the Navy’s UCLASS effort which hopes to have a fighter-size, air-refuelable, stealthy strike drone flying from carrier decks by the end of the decade. UPDATE: Boeing officials tell me that is is simply a concept drawing and not a final design.

Remember, Northrop Grumman is likely to offer a version of its X-47B for the UCLASS contest while General Atomics is offering a version of its Predator C Avenger, called the Sea Avenger, that’s equipped to handle the strains of catapult launches and arrested landings as well as the salty sea air and Lockheed is apparently going to bid with a yet-to-be revealed design.

Compare the jet above — complete with the doors for an in-flight refueling probe on the nose and the company’s secretive Phantom Works division’s logo on the mid-fuselage — to the company’s stealthy Phantom Ray drone pictured below. Remember, Phantom Ray is derived from the X-45, a jet that lost the contest to serve as a developmental UAV that could prove that it’s possible to operate stealthy, jet-powered drones from aircraft carriers to Northrop’s X-47B Unmanned Combat Air System.

  • Andy

    Make it bigger and faster so it can carry tomahawks and out fly SAMS.

    • blight_

      These things would be gigantic if they carried ALCMs and had the low-and-fast flight profile associated with “out fly SAMS”.

      • archangel

        sams hav top speed of 3.5 or 4 mach so good luck outflying them. just keep it low and fast so they cant get a lock on.

        no way is it gonna get big enough to carry tomahawks

  • Guest

    I hate to nit-pick but wouldn’t the new drone be launched using EMALS? I only bring this up because of all the steam in the picture.

    • Guest A

      That’s actually a good point. It was probably drawn up this way for effect.

    • moose

      There will be steam cats in the fleet for decades yet, the Ford class will not replaces the Nimitz class overnight.

    • majrod

      First thing I noticed.

  • Tad

    Why wouldn’t the Navy just use cruise missiles for unmanned strike missions?

    • blight_

      Cruise missiles are expensive. They certainly have their place though.

      The Navy has TLAMs, the Air Force has ALCM’s and the long-range AGM-130.

    • TMB

      Cruise missiles go boom after you launch them. A UAV can come back for a refill.

    • Big-Rick

      blight is very correct on that, at over $1M a pop, you want to use your golden bullets carefully

      but tactically speaking, you send in the land attack missile first to soften up and take out radars and comms, damage runways and the like

      then you send in the manned flights with JDAMs for the hammer effect and target of opportunity and moving targets, massed formations, etc

    • blight_

      It’s probably also a big pain in the rear to replenish TLAMs than bombs. You can have an ammunition ship replenish at sea. Replenishing a VLS cell is a little trickier. I imagine it might theoretically be doable at sea…at very calm sea states.

      • Tad

        Ahh, I see, it’s mainly a cost and logistics issue. Thanks to all who replied to my question.

        • blight_

          No harm in asking.

          Interesting tidbit here, dealing with replenishment at sea.

          “The original development of the MK 41 Vertical Launch System (VLS) for cruisers and destroyers in the late 1970’s included a requirement to replenish ten VLS canisters per hour, day or night in Sea State 5 conditions. The system actually installed consisted of the STREAM rig to transfer the VLS canister to the missile ship sliding padeye; then deck handling the canister to a position where a crane could tilt up the canister over an empty cell and then strike the canister down. The crane was a commercial Swedish folding crane. Three canister cells were combined to make stowage for the crane. An elevator raised or lowered the crane. The at sea VLS Unrep technical evaluation discussed in Miller (1992) identified that the crane did not have the capacity to lift Tomahawk VLS canisters; SM-2 VLS transfer rate was three per hour and the pendulum action of the crane limited Unrep to Sea State 3 conditions. The cranes are now in layup. Rearming of VLS is only performed in port. Engineering Development of an improved Sea State 5 VLS Unrep system was initiated in the 1990’s but was not completed. A VLS Engineering Development Model was designed and built in 1995 at the Port Hueneme Unrep Test Site where it is still located and operational.”

          I guess TLAMs are too big to replen at sea, and the lighter standards could only be transferred at sea state 3.

          I’m also not sure how old this paper is. It gives a 2009 citation. A lot can happen in three years, but I kind of doubt it….

  • benewbill

    You couldnt pay me to sit in a chair in watch americans. I live in the mountains in theres were there are no planes in theres got to be atleast 20 of these things. I have no idea why i guess to waist more money. Not just one but two.

    • Trevor

      That post doesn’t make any sense whatsoever.

    • chuck

      benewbill been sipping mt. dew= makes no sense !!

    • Hotel55

      Cint evn her ma banjo ovar thu dam noyz o dem dar aireoplins!

    • Navy Mike

      It sounds like benewbill is on the Afghan/Pakistan border up in the mountains and working for the other team.
      Re-read the post with that in mind and it makes more sense.

  • Jacob

    Damn these acronyms…”UCAV” was enough of a mouthful, now they give us “UCLASS”?

    • dan

      How about Aeronautical Intelligence/Recon Platform-launched aero navigational equipment (AIR PLANE)?

    • Guest A

      How about DILLIGAF?

  • blight_

    “Unmanned Carrier Launched Airborne Surveillance and Strike”

    Wouldn’t this be Reconaissance, Drone, Strike, or RQ/A?

  • stephen russell

    Looks like 2005 movie Stealth is alive & well.
    On DVD.

    • tiger

      Damn, as bad as that film was, “Battleship” will be worse….

      • Thomas L. Nielsen

        “As bad as that film was”? Come on! It had some cool Nth-generation aircraft and Jessica Biel in a flight suit. What more do you want?

        Regards & all,

        Thomas L. Nielsen

  • Lance

    I think they should fix there helicopter drone before looking for more complex drones. Plus I dont see any new program outside of DDG-1000 happening due to BIG cuts coming yet the idiots in the DoD kept spending money like they think it grows on trees.

    • tiger

      Guns vs. butter economics. Butter is more popular in Washington D.C. The DOD should be happy to get as much as they do.

    • Ralph

      DDG 1000 is a dead program as only three ships are to be built and the DDG 51 is being extended. Cost overruns and unproven systems will do that to a project. Poor program management.

      • Taxpayer 71

        Ralph, suggest you check your facts. DDG 1000 program management has been outstanding. Unlike CVN and LCS, DDG 1000 has managed cost and risk very effectively using approved acquisition tools such as EVMS. The “cost overrun” was not caused by poor management. It was the result of the Navy decision to reduce the number of platforms to be built resulting in the R&D cost being spread among only three platforms.

  • Bill Morgan

    As a Navy veteran who spent years flying of aircraft carriers, I am thrilled and proud of these new drones ! They are using our technology to make us all safer.GO NAVY !!!!!

    • Ben

      I would reather be not as safe as having these things fly over our heads all day long with a big camera. I’m just curiouse what would they watch all the time in sc. All you hear is wshhhhhhh.

  • Bulldog

    What ever you want to call it is ok with me as long as it comes back home, and if not it self destructs.

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