General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc. (GA-ASI) will help the US Navy shape the requirement for an unmanned, carrier-launched, surveillance and strike (UCLASS) aircraft under a new study contract.

The navy is racing to deploy the first UCLASS system on carrier decks within seven years.

The first step in the acquisition process is to perform an analysis of alternatives to consider all of the feasible options available from industry within the navy's time frame.

GA-ASI will support that analysis over the next eight months, the company announced on August 16.

Since 2009, GA-ASI has been testing the jet-powered Predator C Avenger, a stealthy follow-on to the Predator A and B systems. The company did not cite the Avenger in its press release, but acknowledged plans to leverage the proven Predator A and B technologies.

Leveraging existing systems is a key part of GA-ASI's approach to UCLASS. The company said the navy is seeking reused systems already deployed by the Department of Defense to launch, recover and control the UCLASS, as well as transfer surveillance and intelligence data.

GA-ASI is among several interested bidders for the UCLASS requirement. Northrop Grumman is currently demonstrating that the X-47B can take off and land from a carrier, and refuel autonomously in the air.

Lockheed Martin has previously shown concepts based on the stealthy multirole endurance unmanned air system.

Boeing also is planning to compete for the contract, with its Phantom Ray demonstrator a possible starting point for a marinized version.

Source: Flight Daily News