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AUVSI: Northrop explores future concepts

Even when Northrop Grumman talks about the future, there's only so much they can say.

Will the company reveal whether it will enter its X-47 into the US Navy's much-anticipated unmanned carrier launched airborne surveillance and strike (UCLASS) competition?

"I'd be happy to do that. I just can't," says Gene Fraser, sector vice president of engineering for Northrop's aerospace sector and lead executive for unmanned systems, with a laugh, the first day of the AUVSI North America conference in Denver.

Fraser says the company is "really close to what [the Navy] needs," after seeing the request for information in the spring. Northrop will leverage its various existing unmanned platforms as it prepares for the request for proposals (RFP) "It will draw from X-47," he says. "It will depend when the RFP comes out."

UCLASS is not the only internal research and development program Northrop has in the works. The two concept designs - MQ-X and MUVR - were revealed in the run-up to AUVSI. MQ-X is the US Air Force term for a future replacement of the General Atomics MQ-1 Predator/MQ-9 family of UAVs.

MUVR, being developed in conjunction with the Office of Naval Research, will be a vertical take-off and landing, ship-to-shore cargo resupply aircraft. MUVR will reach top speeds in the high 200kt range, Fraser says, "faster than an Osprey-class"

Northrop is also working in with Bell Helicopter on FireX "targeting the next generation of rotocraft requirements," Fraser said. The 1,000lb internal payload capability will put the new helicopter in a different class from Northrop's existing Fire Scout program, Fraser says.

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