Thursday, July 24, 2014

Will the UCLASS system be a stealthy penetrator or a long-endurance surveillance aircraft?

U.S Representative Randy Forbes (R-VA) wants the U.S. Navy to build an unmanned carrier-launched airborne surveillance and strike aircraft (UCLASS) with more emphasis on the “strike” than the “surveillance.”  According to his official website:

“History is filled with militaries being caught flat-footed by changes to modern warfare, or actually resisting the adoption of new technologies needed to succeed on the battlefield,” Congressman Forbes said. “The U.S. Congress has often played a critical role in military innovation, whether the dawn of the aircraft carrier or the introduction of unmanned aerial vehicles. America’s future security requires a vigorous Congressional role in military innovation, encouraging the utilization of new technologies and asking the tough questions of our military leaders to ensure a military prepared for the challenges of the 21st century.”


“Like Secretary [of the Navy] Mabus, I strongly believe that the UCLASS program represents the future of our Navy’s carrier air wing and American power projection capabilities. To achieve that goal, UCLASS must include a requirement for aerial refueling, survivability, lethality, and payload to have enduring utility in tomorrow's threat environment. In short, this platform must have the ability to operate and survive in contested environments," Congressman Forbes said. “Getting this program right today is essential to cementing our Navy’s advantages in the decades to come.”

Then there’s this:

Document: House Seapower and Projection Forces Mark on the Fiscal Year 2015 Defense Budget

Section 2XX
Limitation on Availability of Funds for Unmanned Carrier-Launched Airborne Surveillance and Strike System This section would prohibit the Secretary of the Navy from awarding a contract for the Unmanned Carrier-Launched Airborne Surveillance and Strike (UCLASS) system air vehicle segment until the Secretary of Defense completes a UCLASS requirements review and provides the results of that review to the congressional defense committees

And this:

House Committee Seeks to Stall UCLASS Program Pending New Pentagon Unmanned Aviation Study

"According to Congressional sources, the many HASC [House Armed Services Committee] Congressmen — including sea power chairman Rep. Randy Forbes (R-Va.) — were not pleased with the requirements the Navy set forth for the program.

"Instead of a stealthy deep penetrating strike aircraft that many in the national security establishment had called for, the Navy had instead tailored the requirements for the UCLASS to conduct intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) missions over uncontested airspace with only a light secondary strike capability."

The Senate is concerned as well:

Senate Panel Wants Pentagon to Craft ‘Stable Requirements’ for UCLASS

“The Committee is concerned that the Navy is proceeding with UCLASS development prior to the formal establishment of stable requirements,” reads the SAC [Senate Appropriations Committee]-D mark.

To watch a discussion of the choices faced by the Navy in developing the UCLASS system, see this footage:

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