THE US NAVY says that it will award Lockheed Martin Tactical Aircraft Systems a sole-source contract this year to conduct design analysis of an Uninhabited Naval Strike Aircraft (UNSA).

The idea is to design highly survivable tactical platforms for dangerous strike missions. The UNSA is to have vertical/short take-off-and-landing capabilities. Lockheed Martin will be asked to develop three UNSA concepts to operate from aircraft carriers and amphibious warships.

The USN wants Lockheed Martin's study to define critical-technology requirements.

US military interest in uninhabited combat air vehicles (UCAVs) has grown in recent years. The USN is considering using the McDonnell Douglas (MDC) F-18 as the basis for a next-generation UCAV, and it has launched the Joint Semi-Autonomous Air Weapon System project to consider a host of UCAV concepts, including an "air-arsenal ship" and a replacement for the F-18E/F.

Meanwhile, Northrop Grumman recently revealed its own UCAV design and Mission Technologies is trying to interest the US Air Force in a UCAV based on the Fairchild A-10 Thunderbolt II attack aircraft.

The firm proposes that the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency conduct a demonstration project involving three aircraft to prove the concept. The firm believes adaption of the A-10 into a pilotless drone could "jump start" other UCAV efforts.

Source: Flight International