The Naval Air Systems Command () intends to issue four firm-fixed-price contracts for Preliminary Design Reviews (PDR) for the Unmanned Carrier Launched Airborne Surveillance and Strike ( ) Air Vehicle. The contracts are expected to be issued by the summer of 2013, supporting up to two years of work. This new unmanned combat unmanned aerial vehicle ( ) system will provide the US Navy persistent unmanned semi-autonomous, carrier-based, Intelligence, Surveillance, Reconnaissance and Targeting, and strike capability to support 24/7 carrier operational coverage.The system to be reviews include three principal elements – the unmanned aerial vehicle (platform), datalink for communications and control and the carrier-based segment, including the handling and operation on-board the carrier, which will also provide the human interface of the entire system. Each of the four contracts will cover two years work (2013-15) and will include funding for post-PDR design maturation and follow-on engineering efforts to advance the designs.
Contracts are expected to be awarded to four companies – theCompany, Systems Corporation, Aeronautical Systems Inc. and , the four companies are expected to be ready for PDR-level evaluation by the third quarter of FY14. Based on this review the Navy plans to select a single proposal for full scale development, anticipating the capability could be fielded within three to six years.
All four companies have solid plans for a carrier-based UCLASS type system.and have concept designs of stealth UAVs designed for carrier operation and have flown the jet-powered stealthy Predator C (Avenger) that could assume that role. Only has a flying vehicle designed to operate on board aircraft carriers – the X-47B, scheduled for carrier testing next year.