Navy to Speed Up Carrier-Launched Combat Drone Program

That’s right, the Navy has been told by Pentagon brass to hurry up and figure out a way to get a stealthy, combat drone flying off aircraft carriers by the end of the decade service officials said today.

Two years ago the Navy announced that it planned on fielding a stealthy, fighter-size drone that could perform long-range reconnaissance and strike missions while operating from aircraft carriers, a project known as Unmanned Carrier-Launched Airborne Surveillance and Strike (UCLASS). The service put out an RfI for the program and numerous defense contractors have begun preparing designs.

So, how does the sea service speed up the process?

It begins by figuring out exactly what it needs the new drones to be able to do and nothing more, a process known as “tightening the requirements.” This makes it easier for contractors to pitch the simplest possible design which should help reduce costs and delays. In addition to whittling down its requirements for the plane, the Navy has been told to streamline its actual acquisition process for the jet. We’ll see how it does that.

“We’ve had a statement of need from the Navy that was validated by the joint staff for UCLASS about three weeks ago . . . and we expect to get a memo that tells us to essentially streamline the acquisition on that program and move more quickly,” said Rear Adm. William Shannon III, program executive officer for the Navy’s unmanned aircraft and strike weapons programs during the Navy League’s annual Sea, Air, Space Conference in National Harbor, Md. “We have the [analysis of alternatives] almost done on UCLASS and we’re looking at that and we’e looking at essentially making sure that we have managed the appetite on the requirements side and streamlined the acquisition process so that we can get it out to the fleet in a timely fashion.”

  • Pat

    Can’t wait for the price of this on top of that so called F-35 program….

  • Andy

    have any one thought of use F117A updated and try it out ?

    • Ronaldo

      Re-engineered for carrier service ????? Dude, you’ve got to look at your wallet and then think this one through a bit more

      • Andy

        Re-engineered ???? ADD THE HOOK AND THE LATEST STEATH TECH.

        • tiger

          It’s a bit more complicated than just a hook. As for the stealthly part? They been trying since the A-12 failure.

        • TMB

          Because carrier capabilities and stealth are just modules you glue on right?

          • blight_

            It’s like a tabletop wargame. For a 50 point unit, add stealth for +20 points.

    • Allen

      The F18 was initially land based and then reengineerd for carrier use very $$$. Plus special coatings on F117 would never hold up to sea conditions.

  • John Moore

    Anyone else getting deja vu today?

  • Lance

    Interesting im not to into a attack version but for a stealthy recon plane this would be a interesting Idea especially in the pacific in use against Vietnam and China.

    • elportonative77

      What do we have against Vietnam?

      • JackBlack

        Vietnamese were always suspects, still are, they are small and sneaky. LOL

        • Kool Guy

          lol it proves your dumb. Today the US and Vietnam is constantly trying to build a good friendship and relationship to fight against China. I don’t think that the US would want to see any China’s neighbors on the side of China but rather on the side of the US. Vietnam must definitely be a friend and not a foe.

          • Anonymous

            We gave Vietnam a lovely everlasting gift of Agent Orange and Napalm and they want to be friends.

            America always wins!

          • Lance

            Overall Vietnam is a peria State like China and both are ruthless and cruel to there people. Overall China is a bigger threat so we back Nam. But overall they like to kill Americans as much as Chicoms do. Don’t trust them either. But help them in a fight against a common enemy.

          • blight_

            They’re pariah states?


  • Byron Skinner

    Good Morning Folks,

    What’s the hold up the MQ-9 (Predator C) Avenger has been ready since 2009. Ot affordable at about $15 million a copy, has a payload capacity of 3,000 lbs in internal bays, as well as up to six hard points on its wings. It can be in air refueled refueled, in fact the refueling can be done by another Avenger at attitudes above 30K feet out of the range of SAM’s.

    The Avenger can be configured as either an RQ platform or an MQ platform as well as the specialized role of Maritime Patrolling.

    All that GA needs is a Purchase order from the Navy and how many they want.

    Byron Skinner

    • Ronaldo

      Hey Fan Boy..3,000 lbs internal payload is not competitive with the other teams. And since when does a measly 30K ceiling for anything put you out of range of SAMS ?

      Let’s see what the USAF does with it first. They are the only customer to date with two on order.


    • Bdgg

      Wow, you either work for GA or have been reading way too many of their press releases. And if you really think they will cost $15m a copy or could do a maritime mission, then I have ocean front property in Kansas that I’d like to sell you.

  • Black Owl

    … I am banging my head against my desk trying to remove this knowledge from my brain. Our services have so much money and they could do amazing things if they used it wisely. First the F-35 and now this… BANG BANG BANG.

    • TMB

      Hasn’t Boeing been doing a lot of this R&D on their own dime?

      • passingby


      • Ralph

        Northrop has been flying the X-47B

    • Kool Guy

      Then in your mind, what are some of the wise and amazing things that our DOD should do? keep on purchasing the Super Hornet like what you said in the argument? And then next thing you know China already have 6th gen fighters and we’re still on super hornet?

  • Byron Skinner

    Good Evening Folks,

    To Rolando. You are quick to criticize but you seems not to have a solution to the problem. The MQ-9 is ready.

    What does the Air Force have, well it seems you draw a blank here because the USNavy is quite a bit ahead of the the Air Force in UAV’s. The USNavy ‘s testing of the X-47B is years ahead of anything the USAF has. The last I heard the USAF is still trying to learn to fly the Reaper.

    Its fine to be a critic Rolando, but with out an answer, well I’ll other finish the statement.

    Byron Skinner

    • Bdgg

      The MQ-9 is ready? Wow, you do work for GA. Thankfully the Navy knows better and GA has zero credibility in the maritime community.


    Maybe the Navy is going to cancel the F35 and dump the funds into.UCAVS and a 6th gen fighter?

    • Chaostician

      Nope. Navy, DoD (Panetta), and Congress are lock, stock, and barrel in the F-35. Industry-friendly Romney would most likely support F-35. The only way I see F-35 being canceled is if a lame duck Obama with nothing to lose zeros it out of the DoD budget, and it somehow stays dead through the appropriation bill / signed law process.

  • Rohan

    It seems interesting that why every company is designing its sixth generation plane or a drone like the above.

  • PolicyWonk

    “Tightening the Requirements” is the LAST thing any of our armed services seem to be able to do. Their overall worst habit is design changes involving technologies that haven’t been invented (during construction!!).

  • JimS

    “Tightening the Requirements” Hah!

  • Hickelbilly

    Kids, Kids, Kids! Daddy said to stream line. There arn’t any Congressmen or Congresswomen posting out here. The accounting is thier job. Every state in The Union has a rep. or two there. They oversee the Pendagon. Daddy said to streamline.

  • Bdgg

    Not sure why anyone is surprised by this, 2 X-47B aircraft designed to demonstrate this are currently flying and scheduled to land on a carrier soon. I’m with the Pentagon, you bought these two demonstrators and are flying them now. Do you like it or not Navy? If yes then we need to get on with the competition now or cancel it and move funding to more pressing needs.

    Pretty straightforward

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