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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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RE: Tales of future past
By danjw1 on 8/19/2013 2:12:20 PM , Rating: 2
Why? It takes off from land, then lands on a carrier that is offshore. What is hard figure out about that?

I believe that the UAVs will only launch from the new Ford class carriers. These will have magnetic catapults, as opposed to current carriers with steam catapults. The magnetic catapults will can have the force adjusted for launching different types of aircraft.

RE: Tales of future past
By sorry dog on 8/19/2013 4:31:51 PM , Rating: 2
Steam powered cats are most certainly adjustable as well. While the electric catapult is more precise, the advantage has more to due with operation and maintenance.

RE: Tales of future past
By Nfarce on 8/19/2013 5:31:32 PM , Rating: 3
The electromagnetic catapult is also easier on the nose gear and hence entire airframe structure due to its more linear and smoother application of power. It will reduce maintenance costs on the aircraft.

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