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