Why the JROC neutered the Navy’s UCLASS program

8739262518_cbb28ecaca_bThis outstanding story by my buddy Sam LaGrone at the United States Naval institute is a must read.

A few weeks ago, I reported that the requirements for the US Navy’s Unmanned Carrier Launched Surveillance and Strike (UCLASS) aircraft are not matching up with what the service’s leaders had originally envisioned when the program was first launched a few years back. Instead of a long-range carrier-based unmanned stealth bomber, the current vision calls for an aircraft that more or less resembles a semi-stealthy jet-powered Predator.

Those original requirements were significantly altered on December 18 last year by the Pentagon’s Joint Requirements Oversight Council (JROC), which is led by Adm James “Sandy” Winnefeld. Instead of a sprint to strike bomber, Winnefeld pressed for an aircraft that emphasizes orbits in lightly contested airspace. The question was why?

Ostensibly, the answer was cost. But the real reason was explained to me off-the-record on the condition that I not publish it. But now that Sam has run his story, the point is now moot.

Sam’s story sheds light on exactly why the JROC effectively neutered the UCLASS program with on-the-record comments from former undersecretary of the Navy Robert Work, now the CEO of the Center for New American Security, and former chief of naval operations Adm Gary Roughead.

So the reason: terrorists. The JROC wanted the ability to hunt terrorists in permissive environments without being beholden to a host-nation for basing access. Sources insist that the White House played a role in the JROC decision, but the Pentagon denies it.

It’s certainly an interesting choice given the administration’s much vaunted Pacific pivot… so we’ll see how this plays out.

We’ll keep investigating… but as I mentioned before, Sam’s piece is definitely worth reading in full.

6 Responses to Why the JROC neutered the Navy’s UCLASS program

  1. mithat 30 August, 2013 at 8:10 am #

    This UAV resembles B-2. Take a look :
    B-2 Spirit Pictures

  2. milspec.sfo 30 August, 2013 at 4:41 pm #

    I think you’re looking at the immediate cause rather than the root cause. Does it really surprise you that a program which would have duplicated the F35 strike profile at lower cost has suddenly been repurposed into something designed to be cancelled?

    Anti-terror is just the bureaucratic smoke screen the F35 at all costs bunch is hiding behind on this one.

  3. Ralph 3 September, 2013 at 3:37 am #

    Or is the answer that General Atomics successfully lobbied and dumbed down the requirements to where they could compete? Either way, the changes are what will lead to the program being canceled. In the current budget environment, such a non-transformational platform will not survive when matched with other Navy budget pressures. No way this program survives as currently written.

    • milspec.sfo 5 September, 2013 at 1:33 am #

      If Winnefeld leaves the Pentagon in a couple years to become an exec at General Atomics, you’ll be proven correct. Otherwise I just don’t see that General Atomics has the lobbying clout, especially against Boeing and Northrop. The F35 lobby, on the other hand, has steam rolled everything in their path for 17 years and they’re not going to stop now.

  4. Onetime 19 September, 2013 at 7:08 am #

    The revised RFP changes a transformational program into a something merely evolutionary. The greatest loss would be the air-air refueling capability, which allows long range strike and is a force multiplier for the remaining aircraft in the carrier airwing. Neutered is an appropriate term for what appears to be happening to this program.

  5. survetement lacoste 18 October, 2013 at 3:37 am #

    Officiellement, le choix du lauréat n’a souffert d’aucun atermoiement, et s’est conclu par “un vote unanime” selon Gatien Meunier, secrétaire de la fédération UMP en Loire-Atlantique. Mardi 15 octobre, la commission nationale d’investiture (CNI) du parti a désigné Laurence Garnier comme tête de liste pour les prochaines élections municipales à Nantes, au terme d’une campagne interne apre et longue.

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