The Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) issued four $15 million Preliminary Design Review (PDR) contracts to Boeing, General Atomics, Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman seeking to develop a carrier-based unmanned aircraft system (UAS) for its Unmanned Carrier Launched Airborne Surveillance and Strike (UCLASS) program.
(Northrop Grumman's X-47B takes off from a carrier launch during July sea-based trials. Photo, courtesy of NAVAIR.)
NAVAIR is looking to improve aircraft carrier-air wing operations with a sea-based UAS, which would provide intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) capabilities for maritime operations. The four original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) are competing to provide the best design for the sea-based UAS, as NAVAIR plans on issuing a final request for proposals (RFP) early next year, followed by a final contract award.
“The PDRs are intended to inform the Navy of technical risk, cost and design maturity of the Air Segment (AS), and allows the industry teams to better understand the program’s requirements across the entire UCLASS system to expeditiously deliver the unmanned carrier-based system to the fleet,” said Charlie Nava, program manager of the UCLASS program.
In May, NAVAIR completed the first carrier launch of Northrop Grumman's X-47B, followed by the first arrested landing in July.
The Navy has indicated that its first carrier-based UAS could be operational by 2018.
Related: Unmanned Systems News