Pentagon’s No. 2 to Meet with Navy to Discuss UCLASS

Pentagon’s No. 2 to Meet with Navy to Discuss UCLASS

The Pentagon’s No. 2 official will meet with Navy officials to discuss requirements for the service’s carrier drone development program as the release date for the formal request for proposal slides to the right, Navy officials said.

Deputy Defense Secretary Bob Work and other top Pentagon officials will meet with the Navy as part of a larger meeting with all the services to discuss the Defense Department’s aviation portfolio. Following this portfolio review, the Pentagon’s Defense Acquisition Board will meet later this month to provide final approval on the requirements for the Unmanned Carrier Launched Airborne Surveillance and Strike system, or UCLASS.

The Navy had planned to issue the formal RFP by the end of July and that still could happen, it appears that August seems more likely. The U.S. Naval Institute first reported the upcoming meeting between Work and Pentagon officials and the Navy regarding the UCLASS requirements.

The UCLASS program has faced a series of ongoing Pentagon reviews of the requirements for the drone following criticism from lawmakers that said the Navy is not designing enough stealth and pay load capabilities into the first version of the aircraft.

Rear Adm. Mathias Winter, Program Executive Officer, unmanned aviation and strike weapons, addressed some of these concerns and the overall health of the program Monday at the Farnborough International Airshow outside London.

“An analysis of alternatives already identified that this warrants a Navy unique capability. Our job now is to ensure we have the right set of design requirements to give to industry to deliver that capability,” Winter said.

The ongoing reviews regarding the UCLASS drone’s mission scope, design and requirements for the program do not appear to be derailing or delaying the Navy’s plans for the program, said Winter.

Last summer, the Navy awarded four contracts valued at $15 million for preliminary design review for the UCLASS to Boeing, General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman

Winter said a formal Request for Proposal detailing program requirements will be released within the next several weeks, an initiative which will formally start the process moving toward formal source selection. A 10-month long selection process will follow the release of the RFP.

“The final RFP will be given to the four vendors. They will have 60-days to refine their proposals. At that time we will begin formal source selection and we will evaluate the proposals,” he added.

Since the Navy had said they planned to release the RFP this month, it remains to be seen whether the RFP can be released before August after the DAB was forced to be pushed back.

Navy officials maintain that a slight delay, if it even happens, would be a minor developmental in light of the overall positive progress of the program and the drone’s technology.

Correction: On Friday, DoDBuzz had reported the Navy was considering the creation of a new joint capabilities development document. Navy officials said Monday this is not the case. DoDBuzz also incorrectly stated that the DAB had recently met to discuss the final UCLASS requirements. 

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This is serious. There are three airframes competing for NAVAIR funding: the F-35C, the F/A-18E/F/G, and the UCLASS.

With the F-35 looking like a train wreck the F/A-18E/F/G has a good chance of getting new orders. However, if the Navy doesn’t get those new orders for Super Hornets or Growlers, they could start putting it towards UCLASS, which if developed correctly will provide NAVAIR with the same capabilities the F-35C was supposed to bring. If the UCLASS is developed right it will kill any argument for the Navy to need the F-35C for good.

I don’t know what Deputy Defense Secretary Bob Work is going to be discussing with Navy officials, but I imagine he’s trying to negotiate with the Navy to keep from making a UCLASS that outshines the F-35C entirely.

Are you kidding? You must work for Boeing (producer of F/A-18 and one of the four UCLASS competitors). The F-35 is in production, weapons integrated, training underway. Not to mention air-to-air capability. The UCLASS is 7-years (if the Navy is lucky) from IOC and Navy ships still don’t have terminals to downlink ISR data or control UAVs. I think it’s a good complement to F-35s, but by no means a replacement.

Is this some conspiracy theory? UCLASS will have limitations not as part of some scheme but due to the role it is designed to fill,communication and IFF limitations, and the effort to make it a relatively “low cost” aircraft.

The Super Hornet is done besides for future upgrades. The Navy doesn’t need any more airframes once they get all of the EA-18Gs they want.

The Navy has been rather unenthusiastic about the JSF given its non-Navy origins but they’re getting dragged along for the ride and in some ways ought to be grateful for not paying a large piece of the cost to develop the aircraft. The total number of F-35Cs bought will vary on a lot of things but some will certainly be bought simply because it’s the only carrier-capable VLO stealth fighter we have in the near-future.

What needs to be a concern for NAVAIR is F/A-XX. An aircraft which ideally would provide a level of raw performance that is comparable to the F-22 and restore some of the fleet defense capability that was lost when the F-14 was retired. Of course everybody will throw a tantrum over the price-tag.

Bob Work is originally from the Navy, he was undersecretary of acquisition for them before his current job.

And in between the Undersecretary of the Navy job and his current job, he was the CEO of CNAS a DC think-tank. Read some of their articles on UCLASS and you might understand why he is asking questions. I don’t think he’s afraid it will be too good, I think he believes the Navy is trying to develop the UCLASS for too small a niche area…not just ISR, it should also be able to conduct strike.

Currently the F-35 is flying, in the training pipline for crews and can drop a couple weapons in exact conditions so No.

The F-35 is a subpar do it all weapon system with each aircraft costing more than our existing aircraft to fly per hour and costing more to buy by a about 3 times as much as the F-18E/F which has similar or better performance. Oh and its stealth is Meh at best.

UCLASS won’t replace the need for a good long range strike aircraft which the Navy has needed sense it got rid of the F-14 and A-6. F-35C’s can’t do it neither can the UCLASS or the F-18E/F.

We need to get rid of the F-35 and begin work on a Long range Fighter and a Long range Strike aircraft like the A-6 was. The later more than the former. We have a few hundred miles to go on for our projection thats pathetic.

I’m on one of the teams. UCLASS is NOT a replacement to ANY other Navy aircraft platform! It is meant as a complement to carrier force projection as an ISR asset (at first) and planned expansion of capabilities such as weaponization.

The debate in question relates to whether or not the requirements need to be changed upfront including the requirement to be LO/stealthy for A2/AD environments. Designing platforms to be LO would increase the fly away cost way above the planned budget and certainly push the schedule way to the right. I doubt this will happen in light of the overall decline in defense budgets across the board.


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