Home » Air » Boeing’s New Carrier-Launched Drone Design

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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{ 36 comments… read them below or add one }

Andy April 16, 2012 at 3:47 pm

Make it bigger and faster so it can carry tomahawks and out fly SAMS.


blight_ April 16, 2012 at 4:16 pm

These things would be gigantic if they carried ALCMs and had the low-and-fast flight profile associated with "out fly SAMS".


archangel April 22, 2012 at 7:53 pm

sams hav top speed of 3.5 or 4 mach so good luck outflying them. just keep it low and fast so they cant get a lock on.

no way is it gonna get big enough to carry tomahawks


Guest April 16, 2012 at 3:51 pm

I hate to nit-pick but wouldn't the new drone be launched using EMALS? I only bring this up because of all the steam in the picture.


Guest A April 16, 2012 at 3:59 pm

That's actually a good point. It was probably drawn up this way for effect.


moose April 16, 2012 at 4:07 pm

There will be steam cats in the fleet for decades yet, the Ford class will not replaces the Nimitz class overnight.


majrod April 16, 2012 at 6:38 pm

First thing I noticed.


Tad April 16, 2012 at 5:10 pm

Why wouldn't the Navy just use cruise missiles for unmanned strike missions?


blight_ April 16, 2012 at 5:39 pm

Cruise missiles are expensive. They certainly have their place though.

The Navy has TLAMs, the Air Force has ALCM's and the long-range AGM-130.


TMB April 16, 2012 at 8:37 pm

Cruise missiles go boom after you launch them. A UAV can come back for a refill.


Big-Rick April 16, 2012 at 9:39 pm

blight is very correct on that, at over $1M a pop, you want to use your golden bullets carefully

but tactically speaking, you send in the land attack missile first to soften up and take out radars and comms, damage runways and the like

then you send in the manned flights with JDAMs for the hammer effect and target of opportunity and moving targets, massed formations, etc


blight_ April 16, 2012 at 11:09 pm

It's probably also a big pain in the rear to replenish TLAMs than bombs. You can have an ammunition ship replenish at sea. Replenishing a VLS cell is a little trickier. I imagine it might theoretically be doable at sea…at very calm sea states.


Tad April 17, 2012 at 9:58 am

Ahh, I see, it's mainly a cost and logistics issue. Thanks to all who replied to my question.


blight_ April 17, 2012 at 10:13 am

No harm in asking.

Interesting tidbit here, dealing with replenishment at sea.

"The original development of the MK 41 Vertical Launch System (VLS) for cruisers and destroyers in the late 1970’s included a requirement to replenish ten VLS canisters per hour, day or night in Sea State 5 conditions. The system actually installed consisted of the STREAM rig to transfer the VLS canister to the missile ship sliding padeye; then deck handling the canister to a position where a crane could tilt up the canister over an empty cell and then strike the canister down. The crane was a commercial Swedish folding crane. Three canister cells were combined to make stowage for the crane. An elevator raised or lowered the crane. The at sea VLS Unrep technical evaluation discussed in Miller (1992) identified that the crane did not have the capacity to lift Tomahawk VLS canisters; SM-2 VLS transfer rate was three per hour and the pendulum action of the crane limited Unrep to Sea State 3 conditions. The cranes are now in layup. Rearming of VLS is only performed in port. Engineering Development of an improved Sea State 5 VLS Unrep system was initiated in the 1990’s but was not completed. A VLS Engineering Development Model was designed and built in 1995 at the Port Hueneme Unrep Test Site where it is still located and operational."

I guess TLAMs are too big to replen at sea, and the lighter standards could only be transferred at sea state 3.

I'm also not sure how old this paper is. It gives a 2009 citation. A lot can happen in three years, but I kind of doubt it….


benewbill April 16, 2012 at 5:39 pm

You couldnt pay me to sit in a chair in watch americans. I live in the mountains in theres were there are no planes in theres got to be atleast 20 of these things. I have no idea why i guess to waist more money. Not just one but two.


Trevor April 16, 2012 at 6:38 pm

That post doesn't make any sense whatsoever.


chuck April 16, 2012 at 7:33 pm

benewbill been sipping mt. dew= makes no sense !!


Hotel55 April 17, 2012 at 11:22 am

Cint evn her ma banjo ovar thu dam noyz o dem dar aireoplins!


Navy Mike April 20, 2012 at 10:43 am

It sounds like benewbill is on the Afghan/Pakistan border up in the mountains and working for the other team.
Re-read the post with that in mind and it makes more sense.


Jacob April 16, 2012 at 7:20 pm

Damn these acronyms…"UCAV" was enough of a mouthful, now they give us "UCLASS"?


dan April 18, 2012 at 7:32 am

How about Aeronautical Intelligence/Recon Platform-launched aero navigational equipment (AIR PLANE)?


Guest A April 18, 2012 at 3:14 pm

How about DILLIGAF?


blight_ April 16, 2012 at 7:26 pm

"Unmanned Carrier Launched Airborne Surveillance and Strike"

Wouldn't this be Reconaissance, Drone, Strike, or RQ/A?


stephen russell April 16, 2012 at 8:29 pm

Looks like 2005 movie Stealth is alive & well.


tiger April 16, 2012 at 11:37 pm

Damn, as bad as that film was, "Battleship" will be worse….


Thomas L. Nielsen April 17, 2012 at 5:37 am

"As bad as that film was"? Come on! It had some cool Nth-generation aircraft and Jessica Biel in a flight suit. What more do you want?

Regards & all,

Thomas L. Nielsen


Lance April 17, 2012 at 12:01 am

I think they should fix there helicopter drone before looking for more complex drones. Plus I dont see any new program outside of DDG-1000 happening due to BIG cuts coming yet the idiots in the DoD kept spending money like they think it grows on trees.


tiger April 17, 2012 at 6:48 am

Guns vs. butter economics. Butter is more popular in Washington D.C. The DOD should be happy to get as much as they do.


Ralph April 19, 2012 at 8:44 am

DDG 1000 is a dead program as only three ships are to be built and the DDG 51 is being extended. Cost overruns and unproven systems will do that to a project. Poor program management.


Taxpayer 71 April 23, 2012 at 11:55 am

Ralph, suggest you check your facts. DDG 1000 program management has been outstanding. Unlike CVN and LCS, DDG 1000 has managed cost and risk very effectively using approved acquisition tools such as EVMS. The "cost overrun" was not caused by poor management. It was the result of the Navy decision to reduce the number of platforms to be built resulting in the R&D cost being spread among only three platforms.


Bill Morgan April 17, 2012 at 5:27 pm

As a Navy veteran who spent years flying of aircraft carriers, I am thrilled and proud of these new drones ! They are using our technology to make us all safer.GO NAVY !!!!!


Ben April 19, 2012 at 12:32 pm

I would reather be not as safe as having these things fly over our heads all day long with a big camera. I’m just curiouse what would they watch all the time in sc. All you hear is wshhhhhhh.


Bulldog June 22, 2012 at 2:55 pm

What ever you want to call it is ok with me as long as it comes back home, and if not it self destructs.


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Pat April 16, 2012 at 4:56 pm

should have said ^strike fighter^


tiger April 16, 2012 at 11:10 pm

Reapers have killing bad guys everyday for some 10 years now. Get used to it.


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