After years of discussion, the U.S. Navy has still not finalized its requirements for its much-desired Unmanned Carrier-Launched Airborne Surveillance and Strike (Uclass) platform.
Navy officials have not yet fully hammered out the requirements for the system. There has been an ongoing debate in the Pentagon about which attributes – such as survivability and endurance –to emphasize in the RFP. Some senior officials favor balancing the two, while others are eyeing more endurance. This decision will drive the attributes of the air vehicle. A vehicle designed for endurance may carry less payload and be less maneuverable or stealthy. One optimized for survivability would have a reduced radar cross section and might be more agile or carry more self defenses.
UCLASS follows on the heels of the Northrop Grumman-led X-47B Unmanned Combat Air system demonstration program. Under that effort, Navy officials are validating the ability to operate stealthy, tailless UAS on and around an aircraft carrier.
Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Northrop Grumman and General Atomics are all expected to compete for the UCLASS work.