Business model and aspects of Fire Scout and Global Hawk could also be reused, says team

Northrop Grumman and Lockheed Martin are proposing the use of systems being developed for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter as part of their bid for the US Department of Defense's Joint Unmanned Combat Air System (J-UCAS) requirement.

The team also plans to re-apply the JSF business model in developing their J-UCAS bid, including seeking international industrial partners. Lockheed Martin joined the Northrop Grumman J-UCAS team earlier this month.

Northrop Grumman J-UCAS programme manager Scott Winship says the team is looking at which JSF systems can be reused or adapted to reduce cost and risk.

Candidate JSF items include the command, control, communications, computers, and intelligence system, sensor fusion software, and weapon handling systems. The JSF vehicle management system could also be used rather than developing a standalone capability.

The team also plans to use ground control and air vehicle autonomy systems derived from the Northrop Grumman RQ-4 Global Hawk and RQ-8A Fire Scout.

Frank Alvidrez, bid team deputy director, says it is "logical to base ourselves on the JSF type model from technical and business perspectives". J-UCAS can be considered as "kind of an unmanned JSF", he adds.

The bid is based on Northrop Grumman's X-47B Pegasus. Winship says one option for meeting the different US Air Force and Navy requirements is to use a common Pegasus body with different wings.

However, he also says there is nothing in the "USAF or USN mission that the X-47B can't do". The team is aiming for a 12h endurance capability.

Boeing and Northrop Grumman are required to submit final proposals to the Pentagon by year-end. The DoD is seeking a fly-away unit cost no more than one third that of a JSF, or around $10-12 million.

Winship says the reuse of the JSF business model will result in defined work packages for each of the team members, with this now being defined.

"We haven't worked out exact percentages, that will evolve." He also says the team is open to international industrial participation. He adds that Northrop Grumman is hoping to win international J-UCAS sales.

Source: Flight International