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.

  • 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.

  • Jacob

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

  • 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….

  • 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.

  • 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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