UCLASS the grey elephant in the room

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posted on Aug, 21 2013 @ 05:49 PM
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The Navy had a great opportunity in the UCLASS to develop a new, truly stealthy, long persistence strike UAV. Instead, the Pentagon Joint Requirements Oversight Committee (JROC) and the Navy have turned the UCLASS into a jet powered Predator, with a good chance of being cancelled.

The question has been raised if the UCLASS has become a budget sacrifice item, or if these are the real requirements, and if they are, then why even bother. The requirements have, instead of creating a potentially powerful strike system, created an non-survivable platform, that couldn't even start to penetrate into well defended territory. It would work great in areas where defenses are non-existent, or weak, but against someone like China, or Russia, or someone with serious, real defenses, it would last less than a few minutes.

The original proposal was for an aircraft capable of refueling in flight, to extend the range far enough from the carrier to be useful. That proposal was removed in a classified memo sent last December. The requirement was for something that would leave the carrier out of range of new antiship missiles, including the ballistic missile threat, while still allowing for strike by an extreme long range, ultra stealthy platform, carrying a large weapons payload.

In the memo sent in December, the in flight refueling was removed, it was no longer required to operate in contested airspace, and the payload was reduced to just 1,000 pounds. So in effect it was reduced to a moderately stealthy, jet powered Predator. So basically, the JROC has unofficially said that the Avenger will be the UCLASS, as the Avenger already meets most of those requirements.


The Pentagon’s Joint Requirements Oversight Council (JROC) and the US Navy must provide a more credible explanation for relaxing the requirements for the service’s Unmanned Carrier Launched Surveillance and Strike (UCLASS) aircraft programme. Its downgraded capabilities are baffling to current and former defence officials alike, and many are questioning why the Pentagon would embark on such an endeavour that does so little to address the fundamental challenges facing the fleet. As initially envisioned, UCLASS would have provided a credible solution to the anti-access/area denial problems faced by the USN’s carrier strike groups in many parts of the world. The original concept called for an ultra-stealthy, long-range unmanned bomber that could fly deep into the heart of enemy territory while simultaneously allowing the aircraft carrier to remain at a safe distance from retaliatory strikes. Extreme range stand-off capability was considered a vital attribute of the system because enemy anti-ship ballistic and cruise missiles are posing an ever-increasing threat to carriers. Meanwhile, highly stealthy characteristics and a large weapons payload would allow the aircraft to remain inside the toughest of enemy air defences for an extended period.

flightglobal.rbiblogs.co.uk...




posted on Aug, 21 2013 @ 06:05 PM
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Oh what a farce. Add to this the Reaper getting a sesnor payload to act as a ballistic missile detection and tracking platform.....errr i'm sorry, how is this supposed to survive in contested airspace? Let alone track for kills.

Zaphod you know more than me, but even I can see that the US Navy has either screwed the pooch totally, or has a manned platform ready for the role.



posted on Aug, 21 2013 @ 06:18 PM
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reply to post by Astr0
 


The thinking with UCLASS is that it's either a budget sacrifice item, or design by committee. And we've all seen how well that works.

I've heard rumors that there is at least one platform in testing that is Naval. I know a few details about it, but not a lot (it's one of those not ready for primetime platforms). I'm not sure if they decided to fly that instead, and almost have to bring it white, or if they have something else in mind.



posted on Aug, 21 2013 @ 07:07 PM
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The Avenger was in Afghanistan cof a few weeks, and im wondering if the top brass want to protect the F35c provramme by cutting the ultra stealthy UCLASS down so people dont go 'need this fighter?'.

Some really weird stuff going on right now, and lets not forget Lockheeds video or Lorals 1995 offer of vlo heavy payload UAVs.



posted on Aug, 21 2013 @ 07:12 PM
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reply to post by Astr0
 


It's possible, but I think it's more the CoS resistance of unmanned aircraft more than it's to protect the F-35C. The CNO isn't a big fan of the F-35 already, so if anything I would think that he would be interested in doing what he could to prove they didn't need it.

www.military.com...



posted on Aug, 21 2013 @ 07:16 PM
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I'd love to see the Navy go full on for a ship filled with A-47b airframes, refuelling and all. I cannot understand one aspect, and thats the refueller variant Northrop Grumman offered up with big beefy inner tanks to support manned
VLO missions extend their legs. Ditching that to me is madness.
edit on 21-8-2013 by Astr0 because: (no reason given)



posted on Aug, 21 2013 @ 07:25 PM
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reply to post by Astr0
 


The chances of the X-47 in any form flying off a ship, except in their current form are pretty slim. The program was only meant to prove that you can fly UAVs off the deck, with no problems. They were supposed to have been retired already, but the Navy chose to extend the program to help with the UCLASS development, and deck safety issues.



posted on Aug, 21 2013 @ 07:29 PM
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Then thats even more of a puzzle. Why go to all the trouble to produce such a signature controlled airframe? Could just used a QF-4 or 16.



posted on Aug, 21 2013 @ 07:37 PM
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reply to post by Astr0
 


Because the X-47 is expected to be similar in shape to the UCLASS design. And, there are no target drones in the inventory capable of flying off a carrier. A QF-16 or QF-4 can't do it.



posted on Aug, 21 2013 @ 10:11 PM
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It wouldn't be very hard to modify an RQ-170 to fly off a ship, arm it with some hellfires, beef up its electronics, and save the cost of R and D of the UCLASS. An according to lockheed's video, the RQ-170 is already replaced with something that's different, and very cool.



posted on Aug, 22 2013 @ 01:31 AM
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Originally posted by boomer135
It wouldn't be very hard to modify an RQ-170 to fly off a ship, ...



Are you sure about that? It's a whole new ball game. Strengthen the gear, stress the airframe and systems for catapult launches and arrested landings, add a hook that works, teach it to fly the burble, add folding wings probably, anti-corrosion measures, etc.
All that is time, money, and weight.

And I doubt you'd end up with anything more capable than the X-47 in the end. More likely less so. Better to start from scratch.

UCLASS was very ambitious. And risky. And as written was going to be expensive. Those are all on the wrong side of the triangle for a navy already pinching pennies. The question became, would we rather have something less capable sooner and cheaper and get the experience needed to create a more ambitious requirement later, OR risk having a drawn out program that produces a more expensive, more capable plane assuming it can survive budget scrutiny?



posted on Aug, 22 2013 @ 04:47 AM
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The one asset the Navy doesnt have and needs badly they cut it off at the legs. The F35 in any form isnt capable enough nor has enough legs, and yet the USN want to add an identical short legged poorly armed pretty observable asset? Thats proper madness.



posted on Aug, 22 2013 @ 07:04 AM
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Well they are gonna spend the money anyway right? Let's look at it this way. The RQ-4 cost 131 million per aircraft (223 if you include r&d) and that thing couldn't survive 10 minutes in China. So what would the uclass cost per aircraft to be survivable?



posted on Aug, 22 2013 @ 07:27 AM
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Originally posted by boomer135
Well they are gonna spend the money anyway right? Let's look at it this way. The RQ-4 cost 131 million per aircraft (223 if you include r&d) and that thing couldn't survive 10 minutes in China. So what would the uclass cost per aircraft to be survivable?


Well, the X-47B if I read properly, was built the same size, same signature, same everything in order to go from test to production as smooth as possible.

The efforts cost what, roughly $450 million so far absolutely all in. All the USN would need is to give the nod, finish their testing (weapons and refuelling) and NG can hand them the system the carriers need with minimal fuss and max bang for buck.

Now? now they are going to hand all NGs efforts to the wind and piss it all away. That is so absolutely not smart its frankly mind numbing.



posted on Aug, 22 2013 @ 08:33 AM
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reply to post by Astr0
 


Now don't get me wrong, I was excited as hell about the UCLASS competition, just to see all the different designs out there, but something isn't right. Like you said, why go through all the trouble just to dumb down the program? Maybe there's a plane in the blackworld that they have in mind and this is a way to kill UCLASS?



posted on Aug, 22 2013 @ 08:50 AM
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Originally posted by Astr0
The efforts cost what, roughly $450 million so far absolutely all in.


1.4 billion and climbing...


Originally posted by boomer135
Well they are gonna spend the money anyway right? So what would the uclass cost per aircraft to be survivable?


How much more does a F-22 cost per aircraft to be survivable when compared to a F-15? F/A-18 to F-35C? Stealth does funny things to cost.

The X-47B has a smaller payload and similar range to a F-35C without tanks. The F-35C is also capable of air-to-air, and while a model of how not to run an acquisition program, it is much closer to fruition and thus safer. If they have to choose between them where to put money, it's going to come in favour of recapitalizing the fleet with F-35's. They're also looking to keep from scrapping or mothballing dozens of ships, and downsizing the carrier fleet. The UCLASS has plenty of competition for money right now. Hence the shift to a cheaper, less capable requirement stressing endurance and ISR and loosening the requirements for payload and stealth in the newest RFP.



posted on Aug, 22 2013 @ 08:58 AM
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reply to post by _Del_
 


The problem is that the current model of UCLASS doesn't stress endurance. It's barely better than a Predator in terms of all its performance the way things stand right now, which does nothing for the Navy. If they want a Predator, just modify the existing ones with some RAM (which seems to be all they're doing to current aircraft and calling them stealthier anyway), and make the wings fold, and fly them off a deck.



posted on Aug, 22 2013 @ 09:15 AM
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You mean something like the proposed Sea Avenger?



posted on Aug, 22 2013 @ 09:20 AM
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reply to post by _Del_
 


Exactly. That's almost exactly what the JROC has turned UCLASS into. There's no need to have a competition, just buy Avengers, and be done with it.



posted on Aug, 25 2013 @ 02:34 PM
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Originally posted by Zaphod58
reply to post by _Del_
 


Exactly. That's almost exactly what the JROC has turned UCLASS into. There's no need to have a competition, just buy Avengers, and be done with it.


Penny dropped for me today with three threads combining into one cognative thought.

Thread 1) Reaper to get ballistic missile sensors for over the horizon targeting.

Thread 2) UCLASS goes lower tech (for a more urgent delivery imho)

Thread 3) PAC3 shipborne missile does over the horizon anti missile shoot using new datalink.


The U.S. Navy fired two Raytheon Company Standard Missile-6 interceptors from the USS Chancellorsville, successfully engaging two cruise missile targets (BQM-74 drones) in the missile's first over-the-horizon test scenario at sea.


My thoughts are that the USN is #ting bricks about supersonic anti ship missiles and ballistic missile threat, and its a race on to get the fleet with an available and effective beyond the horizon system.

Thoughts?





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