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Navy awards four contracts to develop carrier drone aircraft

The U.S. Navy has announced that it has awarded four development contracts for developing designs to compete for the Unmanned Carrier Launch Airborne Surveillance and Strike Air Vehicle, aka UCLASS.

Boeing, General Atomics Aeronautics Systems, Lockheed Martin, and Northrop Grumman were awarded contracts of $15 million each. The contract announcement says that the preliminary design review assessment is designed to support a UCLASS system able "to enhance aircraft carrier/air wing operations by providing a responsive, world-wide presence via an organic, sea-based unmanned aerial system, with persistent intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance, and targeting, and strike capabilities."

The X-47B makes its first carrier landing

Naval Air Systems command officials have stated that the competition for the final airframe design is expected to begin sometime after January 2014. UCLASS will be an operational jet aircraft with mission of carrying out persistent intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance missions. The aircraft will also be able to engage in strike missions at ranges of up to 2,000 nautical miles.

The United States Navy has been working with carrier-based drone aircraft for quite some time in the form of Northrop Grumman’s X-47B. The X-47B made its first carrier landing back in July 2013 aboard the USS George H.W. Bush. The demonstration was the first time an unmanned autonomous aircraft landed on a U.S. carrier.

The X-47B program has already produced two test aircraft with the first carrier launch having occurred on May 14, 2014. The landing in July completed the test program requirements. 

Source: Defense News





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