Home » Air » Boeing Close to Choosing Carrier Drone Design

Boeing Close to Choosing Carrier Drone Design

by John Reed on June 8, 2012

SAINT LOUIS, Mo. — Boeing is getting “very close  to having what we’d say is a very capable design” to pitch for the Navy’s Unmanned Carrier-launched Airborne Surveillance and Strike (UCLASS) program, Chris Chadwick, president of the company’s military aircraft division told DT at  Boeing’s Saint Louis, Mo., facilities yesterday. While he wouldn’t reveal much about the company’s UCLASS design, he did say that it definitely isn’t “a warmed-over X-45.”

The X-45, which has evolved into the Phantom Ray, was Boeing’s unsuccessful bid for the Navy’s Unmanned Combat Air Vehicle Demonstrator (UCAS-D) program that is using Northrop Grumman’s X-47B to test out how to conduct carrier ops with a large, stealthy UAV.

UCLASS is the Navy’s effort to field a fighter-size, stealthy drone capable of flying long distances to spy on and attack enemies by 2018. The Sea service considers it a follow-on effort to the UCAS-D program.

A couple months ago, we showed you the drawing of a mysterious aircraft (shown above) depicting what Boeing officials said was merely a concept image for UCLASS, not a final design, and that the company was still evaluating a half dozen or so different designs that it could pitch for the effort.

Chadwick said he isn’t concerned about Northrop having an advantage over Boeing in the UCLASS program, saying that all competitors into the contest will have access to the information learned from the UCAS-D program.

Northrop 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.

 

Share |

{ 44 comments… read them below or add one }

Alex June 8, 2012 at 11:25 am

I welcome a Boeing follow on effort to the Phantom Ray demonstrator. Sadly for Boeing, I am inclined to believe Northrop's X-47B already has a lock on any large systems purchase by the Navy. Regardless, UCLASS is a revolutionary step towards returning long distance offensive reach to US carrier forces.

Reply

blight_ June 8, 2012 at 12:04 pm

I'm not sure that having a lead in a program is a guarantor of success. Lockheed had the F-117 first and thought it would lock in the B-2 program; but lost it to Northrop.

Northrop will have a fight on its hands for this particular fighter program. Funny how it used to be Lockheed locked out of fighter developments; but now it's cornered the new fighter programs in the Raptor and Lightning. So it goes.

GA has been in the UAV business the longest, and getting here means GA is finally one of the big boys. But will they be the next Convair, or something bigger?

Reply

Alex June 8, 2012 at 12:19 pm

You bring up very good points. This might be the start of revolving program winners, as we have seen in the past. Lockheed currently has the F-35 to keep cash flowing into the coffers. Boeing brings the F-18, EF-18, and the K-46 into the equation. Northrop currently lacks a large scale procurement program such as these with the DOD. If anything, Northrop may be selected simply to keep the company able to perform the function in the future. This would serve to preserve the industrial base.

Reply

blight_ June 8, 2012 at 12:24 pm

They may borrow the LCS model and keep the top two of each aircraft around, then invent a justification for it. They would then instruct the two companies to collaborate to keep costs down, lest both programs be killed.

Reply

Richard Stalker June 8, 2012 at 1:05 pm

Yeah, to specify Northrop does not have a major airframe contract, They do have huge DOD contracts with their shipbuilding and submarine building. So I doubt they are super worried about being in on the airframe biz, but I'm sure they would like to.

Reply

Formerly Skeptic June 8, 2012 at 3:29 pm

Northrop is no longer in the Shipbuilding business. Spun it off as Huntington Ingalls.

Reply

blight_ June 8, 2012 at 3:49 pm

Just like GD spun off their air and refocused as GDLS.

Ralph June 8, 2012 at 10:12 pm

So you don't consider the E-2D in production now as a major airframe contract? Or the MQ-8B and MQ-8C, MQ-4C BAMS, continued sustainment and upgrades of the EA-6B, B-2, and E-8 JSTARS? Not to mention they build almost 50% of the Super Hornet and have a large work share on the F-35.

Oh, and they got out of shipbuilding almost 2 years ago to better focus on their core expertise, Aerospace manned and unmanned. Just because they don't own congress like Boeing does doesn't mean they aren't competitive.

Reply

Curious June 8, 2012 at 1:41 pm

Northrop has major contracts tiedto both the F-35 and F-18 E/F/G. They make significant portions of the fuselage for each, i believe. So they are still in the biz and have teams realted to said biz to try and keep current on the technology

Reply

blight_ June 8, 2012 at 3:50 pm

I guess it pays better than being an integrator who is left holding the bag…?

Reply

Praetor June 8, 2012 at 12:08 pm

Is that a hidden nose refueling probe?

Reply

STemplar June 8, 2012 at 12:15 pm

Probably, the UCLASS is supposed to be able to do mid air refueling.

Reply

STemplar June 8, 2012 at 12:16 pm

I hope Boeing's willingness to put forward a model and these other companies means the testing on the X47B is going well.

Reply

WHAT June 8, 2012 at 12:43 pm

Pictures! Pictures! More Pictures!!!!

Reply

Will June 8, 2012 at 1:14 pm

This photo has been around for a while. It's been 'shoped. A UAV inserted where a manned plane was. Still, who's the plane director supposed to be waving at? I don't think Boeing is going to stick a camera under the air intake…

Reply

EW3 June 8, 2012 at 1:40 pm

There are going to be quite a few changes when the UCLASS gets into the fleet.

Do drones need to do as many flights to keep up "pilot" proficiency ?

Reply

Lance June 8, 2012 at 2:41 pm

That's if funds allow this plane to even be tested.

Reply

Pablo Munoz June 8, 2012 at 6:56 pm

Why doesn't the Global Hawk fit this requirement? Does this UAV need to be developed?

Reply

blight_ June 8, 2012 at 8:10 pm

Global Hawk is meant to be launched from standard long runways, fly for extreme distances with a surveillance package and then return home.

Flying a rugged UAV possibly designed for local control by a CVN and manned aircraft motherships with autonomous refuel and catapult launch capability sounds pretty different.

Reply

stephen russell June 8, 2012 at 8:27 pm

See 05 movie Stealth for Navy drone idea.
Radical then for movie.

Reply

Robert June 8, 2012 at 8:46 pm

Also see Deal of the Century w/ Chevy Chase in it, with focus of the story around a US Navy Strike Drone. Nearly 2 decades before its time (turned out was bad idea too.)

I know its way the wind is blowing, that Combat Drone Strike craft and likely fighters will replace piloted combat planes, but i still its bad idea. Aside from fact i think some day despite any kind of protection in their systems, i think these planes will could be hijacked or be easily to fail through hacking. I rather have someone behind a stick controling stuff the with heavy weaponry than something than someone programmed UCAV to attack target on its own.

Boeing hasn't had any "new" designs of their own that been successful, i think their really going need get this contract to stay revelvant now that funding getting tighter.

Reply

Chris June 9, 2012 at 9:00 am

Its hard to go hypersonic and pull high-g's with a 160lb pile of flesh in the cockpit. These designs are lead-ons to what we will be seeing in the next 50 years. Mach 20+ drones with global strike capability anywhere in the world in just a few hours. Everything has a purpose. As the battlefield changes and space-based weapons are slowly becoming a reality, we will need a prompt global-strike platform that can achieve these goals. Doesn't mean we won't have manned-fighters anymore, they have already made that clear.

Reply

Technoweapon June 9, 2012 at 10:18 am

Beautiful. I love to see drones like this. Keep the pilots safe, and piloting the drones, on the CV. Drones don't have the Human limitations and can stay out much much longer.

Without the need of a pilot in the craft there's more room for design and equipment, too. I haven't looked at the dimesions, yet. Are they even available? If they're smaller than traditional aircraft you could cram a lot more drones onto a ship.

Have a swarm of weapons flying around while keeping your pilots fresh on board.

Reply

Belesari June 9, 2012 at 11:35 pm

Doesnt work that way.

These are going to be the size of a typical manned fighter but with longer range less payload and around the same cost when all is said and done. I'm figuring around 30mil per drone. That doesnt include the control systems etc.

Drones would be great for long range strikes in places where the US or its allies control the skies. However these wont be able to manuver and fight or flee the way a human piloted plane with a pilot right there flying would.

This all assumes the people we fight dont just nock out our satelites with ground based lasers.

Reply

STemplar June 11, 2012 at 7:55 am

Yah, no ground based laser is going to knock down a GPS sattelite orbiting at 12,500 miles. Not even China has the Death Star yet.

Reply

Sanem June 10, 2012 at 4:19 am

"These are going to be the size of a typical manned fighter but with longer range less payload and around the same cost when all is said and done. I'm figuring around 30mil per drone. That doesnt include the control systems etc."

Estimated cost for these UCAVs is about $50 million. This is compared to $65 million for an F-18E, and $236.8 million for an F-35 (which in best case will be about $150 million, but I wouldn't hold my breath). Range would be almost double, much more when you use in flight refueling. Payload would be smaller, but with SDBs and no need for AAMs, that's not that big a problem.

But the biggest gains are in different ways.
Their ability to stay on station for days instead of hours will allow for a much greater mission effectiveness, combined with their lower cost you'll be basically able to be everywhere at once, all the time. If the USAF also were to use them, you'd be able to deploy a huge number of aircraft from a single aircraft carrier.

"Drones would be great for long range strikes in places where the US or its allies control the skies. However these wont be able to manuver and fight or flee the way a human piloted plane with a pilot right there flying would."

You wouldn't need to control the skies, they'd use their stealth and EW to sneak through the enemy air defences, and take it apart piece by piece.
F-117's did this over Panama, Iraq and Serbia, they never carried AAMs but in over a decade they only lost a single aircraft. Now imagine hundreds of these and you'll control the skies without the need for fighter aircraft. Park them over enemy air bases, and blow up any aircraft when it tries to land or take off.

Which is not to say that they won't be able to carry AAMs, I'd guess up to 4 or 6 AMRAAMs or even more AIM-9Xs should be possible. Give them targetting data from passive sensors, satellite or AWACS input, and they'll sneak up on any enemy aircraft and shoot them down before they know what hit them.

As for air combat manoeuvring, modern combat jet computers can recognise enemy aircraft, missiles, air defences… And respond accordingly. Give a computers a machine gun, and it can shoot down incomming missiles and mortars. Give it a UCAV that can pull really high Gs, and I'm guessing it'll be able to avoid incomming missiles and fighter jets in ways a human would simply not survive. You can be the best and smartest fighter pilot in the world, if your target can turn twice as sharp as you, it becomes physically impossible to keep on it.
Combine this with stealth and a networked way of combat, and multiple UCAVs will set up interlocking fields of fire from which no target can escape, and simply sneak off once they've fired their missiles (contrary to the F-35, which has limited rear facing stealth).

Reply

Belesari June 10, 2012 at 1:47 pm

Sanem,

We've been over this before this isnt the movie stealth. First off stealth isnt magic they are not superninja's.

China, russia, Iran and just about every country is working on high/low radar that can detect any stealth aircraft. Hell, i've heard the DDG's and CG's could detect them with aegis. This means that while they migh go unoticed for a time by some fighters when a ground station picks them up there DEAD. These aircraft are not fighters. That is what allows them to operate for so long and fly efficently. Design.

So they are bomb trucks i doubt they could even evade a Saber or early Mig. So they wont be doing any of that. Which the Chinese keep these aircraft around, gun fighters.

Your giving them atributes which they dont have, or need. Indeed if they did they would cost 200mil dollars. These have a mission. Go to target area A attack targets 1 and 2 and return to base.

I doubt drones will ever be the way your seeing them and in the end would operate far better with a human in the loop with them.

Reply

Belesari June 10, 2012 at 1:51 pm

Now i Can see a couple things.

1) Eventually pilots in fighters being able to use them sort of like mules in that they carry long range missiles which can use the targeting data from the manned fighter to attack targets at range before the manned fighters go in and then they can return to base.

2) Unmanned refueler. It just makes sense.

EW btw doesnt work the way you think it does. EW doesnt make you stealthy. To the contrary it lights you up like christmas. However, you spoof the hell out of radars making it almost impossible to get a lock on you which is how F-18 Growlers can force a gun fight on a F-22.

So even if EW was part of the idea it still wouldnt be a way of avoiding attention.

Reply

anthony June 13, 2012 at 10:03 am

Having drones keep tabs on our borders in southern ca were a war is ablaze helps against alot of man hours..

Reply

blight_ June 13, 2012 at 6:22 pm

Still need people to monitor drone output. Though keeping them in CONUS would reduce the latency considerably…

Reply

Bungeeclub May 27, 2014 at 8:00 am

For the purposes of this lesson, don’t worry about what the arms will do during the setup.
With that being said it’s a good idea that you have a clear picture of what you should look like at
the end of your swing, where your weight should be and what your feet should be doing.
Mark out a distance until you can consistently it the ball that
far.

Reply

nutra natural cambodia garcinia reviews June 27, 2014 at 9:43 pm

Hi mates, its reat article regarding tutoringand fully explained, krep itt up alll the time.

Reply

wife sharing July 8, 2014 at 2:31 am

Wow, amazing blog format! How lengthy have you been blogging for?
you make blogging look easy. The total glance of your website
is magnificent, let alone the content material!

Reply

pp.ua July 8, 2014 at 4:28 pm

Thanks a lot for sharing this with alll folks you really
realize what you are speaking approximately! Bookmarked.

Pleaswe additionally discuss with my website =). We couuld have a link change agreement among us

Reply

pro garcinia and pure green coffee bean plus July 16, 2014 at 11:24 pm

Do you have a spam problem on this website;
I also aam a blogger, and I was wondering your situation; wee have created some nice
practices and we aare looking to exchange strategies witrh others, be sure to shoot me an email if interested.

Reply

buy twitter followers July 17, 2014 at 9:39 pm

The backend part of your company supports these profit centers.
Advertisers all over the place, advertising everything underneath the sun. A internet marketing business, in a nutshell,
a business that’s designed to run on the internet via a website.

Reply

knot in back July 19, 2014 at 11:47 pm

Removing the toxins has been very effective low pain relief for manhy patients.

Locally serving the Aspen Valley region of Colorado, this center focuses on non surgical alternatives to healing.
Despite the faht that it’s a really not unusual situation, thhe reasons oof it aren’t identical
across the population of people struggling with tthe condition.

Reply

เช่าชุดราตรี July 20, 2014 at 2:13 am

My family always say that I am killing my time here at web, however I know I
am getting knowledge every day by reading such fastidious articles or reviews.

Reply

e-dating online August 12, 2014 at 9:15 pm

What a information of un-ambiguity and preserveness of valuable expoerience about unexpected emotions.

Reply

ชุดราตรี August 17, 2014 at 6:49 am

This is my first time visit at here and i am genuinely happy to read all at one place.

Reply

účinná diéta August 25, 2014 at 3:41 am

Excellent article. I’m exxperiencing many off these issues as well..

Reply

dijeta po danima August 26, 2014 at 8:46 pm

If yoou want to increase your knowledge only keep visiting this web site and
be udated with the hottest news update posted here.

Reply

bilzerian race August 28, 2014 at 10:02 pm

You can certainly see your expertise in the work you write.
The arena hopes for even more passionate writers
such as you who are not afraid to mention how they believe.

At all times follow your heart.

Reply

blight_ June 13, 2012 at 6:21 pm

What would be more helpful is realizing that aircraft in air-to-air depend more on radar returns than actual full motion video, reducing the bandwidth problem appreciably.

That said, automating dogfighting would eliminate latency in a particularly mission-critical function, but you still need lots of bandwidth if you want to push imagery. Unless you intend for drones to fly strike missions "blind" to visual input to human operators…which would be fly this path (or dynamically find the path of least resistance), drop bombs on GPS-fixed coordinates and high-tail it out.

Reply

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: