Navy edges closer to choosing a contractor to build next-generation carrier-based UAV

PATUXENT RIVER NAS, Md., 2 April 2013. U.S. Navy officials are edging closer to a final decision on choosing a contractor to build a next-generation carrier-based unmanned surveillance and fighting aircraft.

Officials of the The Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) at Patuxent River Naval Air Station, Md., announced their intention last week to award contracts to four companies for preliminary design review of their entries in a competition to build the Unmanned Carrier Launched Airborne Surveillance and Strike (UCLASS) aircraft.

NAVAIR officials say they plan to issue firm-fixed-price contracts to the Boeing Co in St. Louis; Northrop Grumman Corp. in El Segundo, Calif.; General Atomics Aeronautical systems Inc. in Poway, Calif.; and to Lockheed Martin Corp. in Palmdale, Calif. to conduct preliminary design review of the companies' UCLASS prototypes.

Boeing is expected to enter a design that draws lessons from its X-45C Phantom Ray unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), Northrop Grumman is expected to enter its X-47B naval unmanned combat aircraft demonstrator, General Atomics is expected to enter a jet-powered version of the company's Predator-C UAV, and Lockheed Martin is expected to enter a version of its Sea Ghost concept.

Navy officials say each of the four companies has a comprehensive, UCLASS design, and plan to conduct preliminary design review evaluations in fall 2014. Subcontracting opportunities may be available, Navy officials say.

These preliminary design reviews are expected to lead to final selection of one contractor in 2016 for full-scale UCLASS development, production, and deployment.

Navy officials want the UCLASS fighting UAV to be ready for deployment aboard aircraft carriers in 2020. For questions or concerns on the UCLASS preliminary design review contracts contact the Navy's Christie Rawlings by phone at 301-757-7084, or by email at Christie.Rawlings@navy.mil.

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