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Boeing’s New Carrier-Launched Drone Design

by John Reed on April 16, 2012

Well, it looks like ths might be Boeing’splanned bid for the Navy’s next strike fighter, (after JSF, anyway) known as the Unmanned Carrier Launched Airborne Surveillance and Strike (UCLASS).

I just took this picture, showing a drawing of an advanced looking-drone under the UCLASS name, at Boeing’s booth at the Navy League’s annual Sea, Air, Space conference in National Harbor, Md. This was the first I’d seen of anything hinting at Boeing’s planned bid for the Navy’s UCLASS effort which hopes to have a fighter-size, air-refuelable, stealthy strike drone flying from carrier decks by the end of the decade. UPDATE: Boeing officials tell me that is is simply a concept drawing and not a final design.

Remember, Northrop Grumman is likely to offer a version of its X-47B for the UCLASS contest while General Atomics is offering a version of its Predator C Avenger, called the Sea Avenger, that’s equipped to handle the strains of catapult launches and arrested landings as well as the salty sea air and Lockheed is apparently going to bid with a yet-to-be revealed design.

Compare the jet above — complete with the doors for an in-flight refueling probe on the nose and the company’s secretive Phantom Works division’s logo on the mid-fuselage — to the company’s stealthy Phantom Ray drone pictured below. Remember, Phantom Ray is derived from the X-45, a jet that lost the contest to serve as a developmental UAV that could prove that it’s possible to operate stealthy, jet-powered drones from aircraft carriers to Northrop’s X-47B Unmanned Combat Air System.

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