Navy UCLASS program to develop carried-based unmanned aircraft with surveillance and strike capability by 2018

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PATUXENT RIVER NAS, Md., 29 March 2011. The U.S. Navy is kicking off a program to develop a carrier-based unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) by 2018 with the ability to carry out intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) missions, as well as light attack missions, to support carrier air wing operations.

The U.S. Naval Air Systems Command at Patuxent River Naval Air Station, Md., on Monday issued a broad agency announcement (N00019-11-R-0031) for the Unmanned Carrier-Launched Airborne Surveillance and Strike (UCLASS) program, which will capitalize on existing military systems to launch, recover, and control unmanned aircraft, transfer data in support of time-critical strike operations, and conduct persistence ISR operations.

UCLASS will provide an unmanned aircraft capable of persistent surveillance and precision strike, and will represent a major step toward combining manned and unmanned aircraft operations aboard Navy aircraft carriers. The new unmanned surveillance and strike aircraft will become part of the traditional aircraft carrier air wing. A UCLASS detachment may operate independently or as part of an existing unit, be sustainable aboard the aircraft carrier, be maintained by fleet sailors.

The Navy has been experimenting with carrier-based unmanned strike aircraft, such as the Northrop Grumman X-47B unmanned combat air vehicle (UCAV).

The UCLASS system will be interoperable for joint forces at levels 1 to 4 per STANAG 4586, and have the capability to transfer control of the aircraft, sensors, and weapons among operators at U.S. military sea and land-based facilities. The system will use secure, jam-resistant line-of-sight and beyond-line-of-sight communications to transfer information and receive control instructions.

The UCLASS system will consist of the air vehicle, mission system, and a remote vehicle control system; a control segment that connects to external U.S. military and carrier air wing assets, Navy and U.S. military networks and satellite systems, and existing U.S. military tasking, collection, processing, exploitation, and dissemination; an aircraft carrier launch and recovery system, and a systems support.

The UCLASS aircraft avionics will include infrared and other electro-optical sensors, as well as radar and radio communications that are compatible with other carrier air wing systems.

The first part of the UCLASS program involves a study of alternative designs, concepts of operations, and systems requirements. Companies interested must respond to the Navy quickly. To be considered, companies must submit offers no later than 29 April 2011 -- one month away.

Send proposals to Naval Air Systems Command, Attn: Mr. Robert Muretta, UCLASS Contracting Officer (AIR-2.4.4.5.1); NAVAIRSYSCOM HQ, 47123 Buse Road, Suite 256, Patuxent River, MD 20670-1547. For questions or concerns, contact Muretta by phone at 301-757-5913, or by e-mail at robert.muretta@navy.mil.

More information is online at https://www.fbo.gov/spg/DON/NAVAIR/N00019/N00019-11-R-0031/listing.html.

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