What should be the news angle if the US Navy awards the UCAS-D contract to either Boeing or Northrop Grumman later this week, which as Defense News reports is a very large possiblity? I've got four options:
a) Assume Northrop Grumman wins. Bill Sweetman at Ares points out that Boeing has got nothing else in the pipeline after the F/A-18E/F/G runs its course (okay, they've still got P-8A and perhaps even YAL-1, but I'm looking for angles here, people, not facts. But clearly this is a problem for the company.
b) Assume Boeing wins. That would mean another strategic defeat for Northrop, coming soon after having its Kinetic Energy Inteceptor program downgraded to alternate booster status earlier this year, fumbling the AOC-WSI contract to Lockheed Martin last year and allowing the E-10A Multi-sensor Command and Control program to be abruptly derailed the year before that. So not a pretty picture there either.
c) Assume either wins. What are the future prospects for the the UCAS-D program's survival? Probably not very good, judging by the fact that industry-paid think-tanks in Washington DC are already hosting "congressional forums" to plead to lawmakers to save the program from budget cuts.
d) How does the US defense industry build another carrier-based strike aircraft if the UCAS-D line-item is eliminated? As my colleague The Woracle explains, the inudstrial base needs to start a new development program every five years to refresh the engineering talent. Without that talent pool to call on, the next development programme may be much more difficult.