I might be wrong here, but I think the US Navy may have just expanded the scope of the Unmanned Combat Air Systems – Demonstration (UCAS-D) program. My understanding was that the Northrop Grumman X-47 was on contract solely to demonstrate carrier-based operations by 2013. The X-47′s design would be capable of performing autonomous aerial refuelling (AAR), but that wasn’t in the Navy’s budget.
I’m still checking on this to be certain, but it appears AAR has been added to the UCAS-D budget. Here’s a solicitation document posted on Fbo.gov this morning:
NAVAIR intends to contract on a sole source basis with theNorthrop Grumman Systems Corporation (NGSC),
San Diego, CAto modify the X-47B Unmanned Combat AirSystem under contract N00019-07-C-0055 to support demonstration of AARcapability by CY 2013.
The X-47B air vehicle is the only relevant carrier suitableunmanned air system in existence capable of demonstrating
AAR.Further, the X-47B design is capable of accommodating both USN-style andUSAF-style refueling physical and electronic interfaces required for AARincluding a capability to accept fuel.