A US Navy official provided a glimpse on 13 May into the service’s requirements for its unmanned carrier launched airborne surveillance and strike (UCLASS) programme.
Rear Adm Mathias Winter declines to discuss the aircraft’s stealth requirements, but says it must be able to conduct surveillance and strike missions at a “tactically significant” distance in a “permissive to graduated contested environment”.
Winter, the service’s programme executive officer for unmanned aviation and strike weapons, also failed to address whether UCLASS will have aerial refueling capabilities.
He did, however, say the recently-released draft request for proposals (RFP) calls for an aircraft with the ability to conduct “24/7, two-orbit” operations.
And he confirmed that the aircraft will be capable of being controlled both by line-of-sight and by beyond-line-of-sight communications.
The USN issued the draft RFP in April to four contractors — Boeing, Lockheed Martin, General Atomics Aeronautical Systems and Northrop Grumman - but it has not been publicly released.
In recent months speculation has grown that the service had watered down earlier requirements and would accept an aircraft without refueling capability and with diminished stealth characteristics.
But Winter denies those rumors. “There has been some confusion that the requirements have been knocking around,” he told attendees. “They have been solid.”
The final RFP is on track to be released in July, and first flight is previsioned for the third quarter of fiscal year 2018.