Lockheed Martin is taking the wraps off its submission forthe US Navy’s prospective unmanned carrier launched surveillance and strike(UCLASS) aircraft at the Navy League’s Sea-Air-Space Exposition in WashingtonDC.
According to Lockheed, the bat-wing stealth aircraftformerly referred to as the Sea Ghost integrates proven technologies fromprevious manned and unmanned developments. The company is stressing an open architecture design and the “maximum reuse of hardware andsoftware.”
As such, Lockheed’s UCLASS proposal bears a strong familyresemblance to the company’s RQ-170 Sentinel unmanned aircraft, which is beingflown by the US Air Force. Technologies from the F-35 programme have also beenintegrated into the aircraft.
Lockheed says that its UCLASS submission would be adaptableacross the whole spectrum of military operations from counter-terrorism tocarrier-based strikes. “Enabling operations in any scenario – and in anyenvironment,” the company says.
To operate into those disparate environments, the aircraftwill have “multi-spectral stealth, as well as emissions and bandwidthmanagement to defeat detection and enable mission success,” Lockheed says.
The company also claims that its UCLASS design will reducemanpower requirements because a single operator would be able to operatemultiple aircraft. In recent weeks the US Navy has announced its intention tofund four companies to design new unmanned air vehicles for the UCLASSprogramme. Boeing, General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Lockheed Martin andNorthrop Grumman “have credible, existing, comprehensive UCLASS designsolutions, and associated production capabilities and facilities” to designUAVs through the preliminary design review phase, the USN says.
The pre-solicitation, announced on 26 March, is the firststep towards securing funding for the carrier-based strike and surveillanceaircraft. A full solicitation is likely to go out “in the summer timeframe,”says the navy.
The first UCLASS aircraft are planned for productionbeginning in fiscal year 2016, following a likely down select to a singlemanufacturer.