RFP to Launch US Navy UCLASS Design Process

The US Navy will likely issue a call for tenders (RFP) in the coming weeks for a 10-month preliminary design phase of the Unmanned Airborne Strike and Surveillance System (UCLASS) program, according to Lockheed Martin, the one of the interested parties. entrepreneurs.

The RFP will set in motion a new unmanned aircraft system (UAS) development that has attracted interest from Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Northrop Grumman and General Atomics, but which has only come to fruition slowly since the Navy published a request for information (RFI) three years ago. The Navy is specifying a UCLASS system that will provide “persistent, semi-autonomous, unmanned, aircraft carrier” intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance, targeting and strike capabilities. Four to six air vehicles would operate from a transporter to support two 24-hour orbits. Limited operational use of the fleet is expected in 2018.

Bob Ruszkowski, UCLASS program development director at Lockheed Martin, said the UCLASS system will be the first operational UAS to be launched and recovered from an aircraft carrier. It will also be armed for a “light strike” capability with a weapon such as the 500 lb Joint Direct Attack Ammunition. These factors distinguish the UCLASS program from the Navy’s distinct Unmanned Combat Air System (UCAS-D) demonstration featuring Northrop Grumman’s X-47B. However, entrepreneurs should receive government-supplied information from the UCAS-D program to facilitate the development of UCLASS, said Ruszkowski, who spoke at Lockheed Martin’s press day on May 14.

Northrop Grumman appears to have a head start on the competition with the X-47B, which carried out its first catapult launch from the aircraft carrier USS George HW Bush May 14. Lockheed Martin Skunk Works in Palmdale, Calif., Advanced a flying wing design drawing from the company’s RQ-170 Sentinel drone and the F-35C Joint Strike Fighter. General Atomics offers the Sea Avenger, a derivative based on a carrier of the jet Predator C Avenger. Boeing will likely offer its Phantom Ray aerial vehicle, based on the X-45 that competed for the UCAS-D program.

The Navy issued an RFI in March 2010 to identify potential industry sources for UCLASS systems. The advisory called for “unobservable, carrier-based UAS concepts optimized for irregular and hybrid warfare scenarios.” [and] capable of integrating with manned platforms as part of the Carrier Air Wing by the end of 2018. ”Last March, the service announced its intention to award fixed-price contracts for four design reviews preliminary (PDR). He said the four contractors “have credible, existing and complete UCLASS design solutions” that will be ready for PDR evaluation by the third quarter of fiscal 2014. The program also includes control system elements. and carrier segment that will be developed simultaneously. The Navy is expected to “select” an aircraft platform at the end of the PDR phase.

Ruszkowski said the three-year period between the Navy’s original RFI and the PDR phase allowed entrepreneurs to flesh out their concepts. “What’s not as helpful,” he said, is that contractors have only recently seen draft specifications. “Having the specifications in hand a few months before the start of the preliminary design phase puts us in a bit of a difficult situation. We can get out of this, ”he said.

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Abdul J. Gaspar

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