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US Navy releases requirements for carrier-launched UAV

The US Navy has released a request for proposal (RFP) to bring four potential Unmanned Carrier-Launched Surveillance and Strike (UCLASS) designs to maturity prior to a downselect.

The RFP was released to four companies considered to have viable designs: Northrop Grumman, Boeing, Lockheed Martin and General Atomics-Aeronautical Systems (GA-ASI). The RFPs are individualized for each company and not public, so the exact specifications remain unknown.

The RFP was initially due in late 2012, but subsequently delayed several times. After PDR is reached on the designs, a downselect to a single company is expected. The eventual result will be a stealthy unmanned air vehicle (UAV) for reconnaissance and light strike.

Submissions are due in early July.


 Lockheed Martin

Thus far only Lockheed has publically unveiled its likely UCLASS offering, an aircraft bearing a strong resemblance to the classified RQ-170 reconnaissance drone flown by the US Air Force. Few details are known about the RQ-170, but it is thought that roughly 24 of the aircraft have been built, one of which crashed in Iran in 2011.

Though no official bids have been made public, Northrop Grumman is thought likely to offer an aircraft based on the X-47B, which became the first unmanned aircraft to launch from a carrier deck in May. Boeing is likely to offer a derivative of its Phantom Ray, a company-funded demonstrator aircraft, while GA-ASI has the Avenger, jet-powered, high-speed version of the ubiquitous MQ-9 Reaper.

Though as late as 2012 GA-ASI was undecided about offering the Avenger or the slower Reaper, the RFP reportedly includes specifications making the propeller-powered Reaper an unlikely choice.

The Navy declined to provide additional information.

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