Unmanned Carrier-Launched Airborne Surveillance and Strike (UCLASS)

TABLE OF CONTENTS

The Navy's unmanned X-47B demonstrator aboard the USS George H.W. Bush. Photo: U.S. Navy

IN A NUTSHELL...(Back to Top)

ROLE

The Unmanned Carrier-Launched Airborne Surveillance and Strike (UCLASS) is a Navy program aimed at developing an unmanned fixed-wing aircraft that could operate off of carrier decks alongside manned aircraft, the first such platform that would be able to do that. UCLASS would provide persistent sea-based intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) as well as have precision strike capabilities. Development of UCLASS would involve not only creating an air vehicle that could meet these qualifications, but also modifications to aircraft carrier infrastructure and command and control to accommodate a radically different type of platform. (Source: Government Accountability Office, page 149)

Its predecessor is the Unmanned Combat Air System-Demonstration (UCAS-D) aircraft, a Northrop Grumman-built X-47B aircraft that is used to test various technologies such as carrier-based operations and mid-air refueling that will be critical to the UCLASS program.

Likely competitors:

  • Northrop Grumman X-47B
  • Boeing X-45A Phantom Ray
  • General Atomics Sea Avenger
  • Lockheed Martin Sea Ghost

TOTAL PROJECTED INVENTORY

TBD

FUTURE MILESTONES

Late 2014 - Final RFP released
2015 - Downselect
2020 - Initial Operational Capability

SPECS

Not available; program still in development.

The X-47 overflying an aircraft carrier last year. Photo: U.S. Navy