The US Navy is considering using the McDonnell Douglas (MDC) F-18 as the basis for a next-generation uninhabited combat air-vehicle (UCAV).

The USN is discussing launching a proof-of-concept demonstrator programme with Boeing and MDC which could lead to a first-generation operational UCAV based around the F-18 airframe.

Mike Foley, Boeing Defense & Aerospace Group's business development manager, force projection, says that the company is working with the USN to examine a demonstrator programme potentially leading to a deployable system.

Foley, speaking at a Royal Air Force UAV symposium at RAF Cranwell, says that the project would build upon the VECTOR study work involving the Rockwell/Daimler-Benz Aerospace X-31 looking at an airframe without the vertical stabiliser. Yaw control would be achieved by using integrated thrust-vector control.

The USA, with Germany and Sweden, is planning to restart flight testing the X-31.

Boeing is proposing building on the VECTOR technology, integrating this with the necessary onboard systems to develop a prototype UCAV.

Initially a conventional F-18 would be used - possibly with a pilot on board acting as a monitor - before a full UCAV configuration.

For the operational aircraft, Boeing is proposing removing the aircraft's twin vertical stabilisers, as well as the cockpit structure.

Source: Flight International