US Navy’s wish-list for new UAV spy-bomber



It may need in-flight refueling to avoid disrupting flight deck operations. It will be controlled by the aircraft carrier within the ship’s line of sight, but steered from land-based control centers on long-range flights. It will be a persistent surveillance asset first and a long-range bomber second. Humans, not computers, will always control when it releases weapons.

Those are my take-aways from the US Navy’s solicitation released earlier today for the unmanned carrier-launched airborne surveillance and strike (UCLASS) program. The navy wants to deploy its new spy-bomber in 2018. (By the way, I know some of you don’t like me calling it a “spy plane”, but get over it. It’s easier than saying “intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance” and says fairly close to the same thing!)

The early field of candidates for UCLASS include:

  • Sea Avenger by General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc
  • X-47B by Northrop Grumman



As well as possible variations on previous unmanned aircraft systems, including:



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7 Responses to US Navy’s wish-list for new UAV spy-bomber

  1. Vpanoptes 28 March, 2011 at 11:41 pm #

    Hmmm –
    Shows this aircraft AND F-35′s as operational as of the stated 2012 date. Must know something(s) we don’t…..

  2. Stephen Trimble 29 March, 2011 at 12:21 am #

    Hi Vpanoptes- I should clarify that the video is NOT part of the navy solicitation. It is an old marketing video from Lockheed Martin that a former colleague of mine posted on YouTube a few years ago. But it’s a good representation of what the Navy is talking about for UCLASS.

  3. jetcal1 29 March, 2011 at 2:52 pm #

    “Carrier Vessel-Nuclear (CVN)”

    How about Carrier, (C) Fixed wing (V) Nuclear (N)
    Hopefully the Navy will get some good capability out of this. Since the ES-3 and TARPS have gone away the fleet is somewhat blind.

  4. Spymaster 29 March, 2011 at 3:26 pm #

    Come on, readers, let’s gang up on Stephen until he stops using “spy plane!” It’s easy enough to abbreviate “ISR”, and anyone reading this blog knows what that means.
    “Spy plane” is USA Today-level journalism for the uninformed masses.

  5. Ned Conger 30 March, 2011 at 2:27 pm #

    The Navy should be developing a cadre of UAV controllers to operate from the rear seat of the F/A-18F. This would produce far more capability from the UCLASS bird than could be accomplished from land-based control centers. Super Hornets with UCLASS wingmen would bring about a better blend of human and robotic capabilities than would result from operating UAVs and manned aircraft independently.

  6. jjnodice 30 March, 2011 at 8:19 pm #

    The link on the X-45 Phantom Ray by Boeing takes you to the Lockheed MRE video.

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