Home » Aviation » UCLASS Requirements Shifted To Preserve Navy’s Next Generation Fighter


UCLASS Requirements Shifted To Preserve Navy’s Next Generation Fighter

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A Boeing artist's conception of a potential design for F/A-XX. Boeing Photo

A Boeing artist’s conception of a potential design for F/A-XX. Boeing Photo

The striking power and stealth of the U.S. Navy’s Unmanned Carrier Launched Airborne Surveillance and Strike (UCLASS) concept was reduced to protect the role of the service’s next-generation of manned fighters, USNI News has learned.

In particular, the change in UCLASS from a deep strike stealthy penetrator into the current lightly armed intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) focused aircraft was — in large part — to preserve a manned version of the F/A-XX replacement for the Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet, several Navy, Pentagon and industry sources confirmed to USNI News.

Industry, Pentagon and Navy sources outlined a, “bureaucratic and cultural resistance to the introduction of unmanned aircraft onto the carrier.”

Those sources outline a conflict inside the service between naval aviation traditionalists locked onto preserving manned strike aircraft against separate elements that want to shift more of the burden of strike to unmanned systems.

“Broadly speaking, the naval aviation community is kind of one mind on UCLASS and unmanned systems on carriers,” a former senior naval official familiar with the ongoing UCLASS requirements discussion told USNI News on Monday.
“If you didn’t want that unmanned air vehicle to compete with what’s likely to be a manned replacement for the F/A-18, what would you do? You’d make it ISR only or ISR/limited strike and make it for a low threat environment so that it really can’t complete against a manned fighter.”

Affordability

An artist's concept of General Atomic's Sea Avenger UCLASS bid taken from a display monitor. US Naval Institute Photo

An artist’s concept of General Atomic’s Sea Avenger UCLASS bid taken from a display monitor. US Naval Institute Photo

Specifically, preservation of F/A-XX — a key modernization program of the Navy aviation requirements in early studies — as a manned strike fighter was a instrumental in shifting the tenor of the program, several sources told USNI News.

However, the Navy says there is no direct connection.

“The Navy is conducting analyses to develop a follow-on system to replace the F/A-18E/F fleet,” Rob Koon, a spokesman for Program Executive Officer for Tactical Aircraft Programs [PEO(T)] at the Naval Air Systems Command, said in a Thursday statement provided to USNI News.
“This is a separate and distinct process from the UCLASS program and acquisition strategy.”

Though the relationships are technically separate, according to one source, the Navy has neither the financial nor the political clout to simultaneously develop three expensive and high-end aviation programs — UCLASS, F/A-XX and the Lockheed Martin F-35C Lighting II.

The challenges of developing a trio of high dollar warplanes at once and the latent cultural resistance to unmanned strike aircraft in naval aviation circles made an ISR centric UCLASS and easier win for the service, several sources confirmed.

Affordability of UCLASS has come up often in the development of the program and has been a key tenet of the program since its requirements shift in late 2012 and subsequent April 2013 approval by chief of naval operations Adm. Jonathan Greenert.

“As this is the first-ever carrier based unmanned system, we have exercised due diligence and great discipline in the formulation of the design requirements and business strategy to ensure we balance affordability with required capability to meet our warfighter’s requirements, on time, on cost,” wrote Rear Adm. Mat Winter, NAVAIR’s PEO Unmanned Aviation and Strike Weapons (U&W), in a Thursday statement to USNI News.
“With that, our approved acquisition strategy will ensure we deliver an affordable, relevant, and enduring unmanned carrier capability that will meet fleet requirements and revolutionize carrier air wing operations for decades to come.”

Supporters of the current UCLASS acquisition strategy include Adm. James Winnefeld, the vice-chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff who also chairs the Joint Requirements Oversight Council (JROC), Sean Stackley, assistant secretary of the Navy for research, development and acquisition (RDA) and the N98 (aviation requirements) and N2/N6 (information dominance) branches of the in the office of chief of naval operations (OPNAV), several sources told USNI News

For Unmanned Strike

The X-47B on the deck of the USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN-71) on Nov. 10, 2013. US Navy Photo

The X-47B on the deck of the USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN-71) on Nov. 10, 2013. US Navy Photo

While the program requirements are set, as far as the Navy’s concerned, there is push back on the ISR UCLASS from Congress, academics and other elements inside the Pentagon.

The Senate Appropriations Committee on Defense (SAC-D) asked for a clearer definition of requirements in its Fiscal Year 2015 budget act mark and Rep Randy Forbes (R-Va.), chairman of the House Armed Services Seapower and Projection Forces subcommittee, has been a supporter of a high-end UCLASS concept.

The National Defense Panel — the independent oversight body for the Pentagon’s Quadrennial Defense Review — issued its full throated support for a high-end and unmanned carrier aircraft on Thursday.

“We believe it is also critical to ensure that U.S. maritime power projection capabilities are buttressed by acquiring longer-range strike capability – again, manned or unmanned (but preferably stealthy) – that can operate from U.S. aircraft carriers or other appropriate mobile maritime platforms to ensure precise, controllable, and lethal strike with greater survivability against increasingly long-range and precise anti-ship cruise and ballistic missiles,” read the findings.

Other major proponents inside the Pentagon of a multirole UCLASS capable of operating against an anti-access/area denial threat environment include deputy defense secretary Bob Work, Navy Secretary Ray Mabus, Michael Vickers, under secretary of defense for intelligence, Christine Wormuth, under secretary of defense for policy and the director of cost assessment and program evaluation Jamie Morin, several sources told USNI News.

The Pentagon is taking a second look at the requirements.

The final Request for Proposal (RfP) for UCLASS to industry has been delayed pending a planned August review of the requirements by Work’s office, USNI News has learned.

Work has been among other leaders who favor a long-range strike optimized UCLASS that can perform raids inside highly contested airspace or against a powerful enemy surface action group composed of air warfare destroyers with advanced air defenses.

Some of these latest enemy warships are equipped not only with high-frequency targeting radars but are also equipped with low-frequency radars that can see tactical fighter-sized stealth aircraft.

Further, as signal processing improves, it is becoming possible to discern a weapons-quality track from low-frequency radar—which means broadband all-aspect stealth is a must, sources said.

Such a broadband stealth aircraft might be the only means of destroying such enemy warships other than by using submarines or long-range anti-ship cruise missiles.
Further, a UCLASS-type aircraft needs to be have the range to allow the aircraft carrier to stand-off from the enemy—which could threaten the giant warships with anti-ship cruise or ballistic missiles, the former official said.

The typical off-shore zone a where a carrier used to be able to operate with impunity a decade ago is not longer safe—which means tactical fighters may be of limited use in those scenarios.

  • CharleyA

    Is a robust UCLASS a potential competitor to the F/A-XX, or the F-35C? I’d say the latter. Since the Super Hornet is roughly equivalent to the F-35C, they could potentially hold off acquiring F-35Cs while developing the UCLASS, then terminate their participation in JSF after acquiring one deployable squadron of -Cs per CVW. They still need a higher performance, longer raged, twin engined manned platform to eventually replace the Super Hornet, and that aircraft is certainly not the F-35C, or derivative thereof.

    • Ctrot

      How is it that the “Super Hornet is roughly equivalent to the F-35C”? Super Hornet is not stealthy and does not have DASS to name 2 big differences.

      And what do you think drastically cutting the number of F-35’s the Navy purchases would do to the per unit cost, not only for the Navy but for the Air Force and Marines as well?

      • disqus_89uuCprLIv

        It’s a bargain at only $337m/per acft.

      • http://www.usmc.mil @notrizzo

        The question though is if those differences are actually difference makers in future combat conditions. If NO current stealth technology
        platform is survivable are the platforms themselves going to evolve to be optimized for standoff weapons?

        It’s important to remember too that standoff weapons have
        (and will maintain) a huge advantage over AAW missiles, whereas the strike weapon can be stealthy, comparatively “dumb” and only big/heavy to deliver the desired explosives to target, a AAW missile must maintain a incredible velocity, carry an advance terminal homing sensor (though admittedly less explosives) to take out an airborne target. Thus with an off board or long range targeting capability the launch platform can stay safely outside the engagement envelope and overwhelm (either in numbers or dollars) the defenders.

        This is why the USN is so gung ho about LaWS and EMRG,
        they have to cut the cost exchange ratio of defense or risk being spent into obsolescence.

        • J_kies

          “why the USN is so gung ho about LaWS and EMRG”…
          Excessive contractor marketing, insufficient technical sophistication on the government oversight side and lack of willingness to walk to the library and review the data from Alpha/SLBD wrt LaWS.

          • http://www.usmc.mil @notrizzo

            Please elaborate.

          • J_kies

            Lasers / directed energy systems have to address the problems of power sources, conversion to light or RF, direction of that energy towards the target, address the propagation (fog, dust, high humidity) and then deliver enough heat per square meter of target area to result in lethal effect.

            Attaining lethal effects on target for ASBMs or ASCMs is a matter of some hundreds to thousands of joules per square centimeter of affected area (ablation and heating to failure). Beam spot sizes if you don’t do adaptive atmospheric compensation are meter class at 20-30 km. Overall, this is megawatt DE system if you want to be lethal against fast movers / missiles. Our history of operations of beam directors at high flux (ABL, SLBD) has the mean time between critical failures measured in seconds. Beam Director optics contamination is assured fatal; these systems had legions of PhDs lovingly maintaining them and they operated in high desert or at high altitude mitigating such issues. Overall the quote is “Directed energy is more dangerous where you make it than where you send it” why would a Navy that takes green water over the bow expect a laboratory clean-room bench to be combat effective?

            As to rail guns, the issue isn’t tossing a fast rock, its all about the decade or two of research to attain a guided projectile that survives launch, unguided projectiles won’t hit what you aimed at.

          • Secundius

            @ J_Kies.

            You really don’t need a Long-Range Laser Defense System.
            A Short-Range System with just enough energy to paint the target with a heat signature, so Heat-Seeker System like RAM can lock-on too it, and destroy it. You call also use a system similar the US. Army’s ADS (Active Denial System) Non-Lethal Directed Energy Weapon, again to paint a false heat signature on to the threat. So a Heat-Seeker Missile can destroy it. Another system like METAL STORM will work too. During WW2, it was necessary to shoot down a threat directly, it was only necessary to put a wall of metal into the air, so the enemy threat had to fly through it to get to the target. The same lessons use during WW2, still apply too TODAY’s combat tactics.

          • J_kies

            If your only issue is having enough heat for an IR seeker to find and support terminal guidance- the rapid progress of the threat through the atmosphere and the sky behind it has plenty of thermal contrast to make that problem dead simple without adding heat. Why waste the beam director and all the associated acquisition pointing and tracking hardware if your not actually going to try to kill the threat?

          • Secundius

            @ J_Kies.

            I don’t think only one missile is going too be launched at the threat, I thing every available Missile, Gun, and Whatever is going to be Launched, Fired, Shot and Thrown at the Incoming Threat. And then some. (USE YOUR IMAGINATION)

          • J_kies

            Did that address your desire for elaboration?

      • Secundius

        @ Ctrot.

        The F/A-18E Super Hornet/Rhino and the F/A-35C Lightning II, are roughly equivalent in Ordnance Load Capacity. In everything else they differ.

  • Kurt_plummer

    Good luck affording two squadrons of a phantom FA-XX that is going to have a 1/5th the production run of the JSF. We can get the right price, just have to shift the production overseas to china.

  • OAF

    The USNI UCLASS agenda continues. Sad when “journalists” and bureaucrats think they know more than actual operators. This article is really just a shameful slander of naval aviation in general. This is not even a news article. USNI has decided to launch a smear campaign questioning the professionalism of the warfighters that lead naval aviation. Pathetic.

    The operators are the experts. USNI journalists pushing agendas from “unnamed” sources are not. Perhaps USNI should now lecture the SEAL community on what types of equipment and training they invest in. That would be no more absurd than this piece.

    • Ctrot

      While there may be some truth in what you are saying, IE USNI may have an agenda driving some positions, it is erroneous to claim the “professional warfighters” should not be questioned. After all it was the “professional warfighters” who gave us the LCS.

  • Secundius

    In other words, it didn’t live up to its claimed Operational Specifications.

    • disqus_89uuCprLIv

      Intelligently written Requirements for systems should not reflect current capabilities or restrict the system to be procured to immediately achievable capabilities. They should specify what is needed now but state future needs to be achieved by the program as the technology matures and experience modifies requirements.

      Otherwise any modernization of the system requires the entire torturous path, including fight for funding resources, that a new start program must go through. And ultimately all the extra effort is unnecessary because follow on procurement has its own stringent set of fiscal guidelines- but usually quicker than a new start..

  • TJ

    The threat radars have already countered “5th gen” stealth. Any slight capability advantage the F-35C has over Super Hornet does not justify the huge cost increase to purchase and to sustain the aircraft. The Navy needs an Air Dominance fighter on its decks, not an overpriced, underperforming strike aircraft.

    The unmanned comments in the article are interesting. This is a case where the requirements process has been hijacked by senior politicals who don’t understand what they are saying. The Navy was told to develop an unmanned carrier launch platform, make sure its unmanned, then figure out the requirements for range, payload, strike or ISR,… instead of looking at the Carrier Strike Group as a family of systems and fill warfighting gaps. If an unmanned platform is the best solution, go for it. Unmanned is an attribute, not a capability.

    One of the advantages of an unmanned system is it’s ideally suited for long endurance missions like ISR. Last I checked, there is not much ISR capability in the strike groups, but plenty of strike capability.

    • NavySubNuke

      Agreed – the increased cost of the F-35 both in terms of production and cost per flight hour really isn’t worth it given our adversaries ability to penetrate out the limited stealth these planes incorporate.

    • bobfernald

      “hijacked by senior politicals”

      Randy Forbes certainly knows what he’s talking about. This issue is full of vested interests: the manufacturers, top brass, pilots and politicians. You can’t throw a rock in any direction without hitting someone who’s trying to protect their vested interest.

      As for the F-35C, I wish people would stop comparing it to previous generation fighters because there’s no comparison… it’s a flying computer command-post that can fuse data streams from nearly every platform in Navy’s inventory and disseminate decisions back to multiple platforms. Legacy aircraft won’t have a chance — especially if the F-35 had five high-end UCLASS wingmen. F-18, F-15, F-16 can’t do that.

      The F-35 is threatening more than our adversaries: it should revolutionize airpower… if we just let it.

    • Taxpayer71

      Agree unmanned system is ideally suited for long endurance missions such as surveillance. The central question is whether UCLASS will be designed to survive in a maritime anti-access/area denial threat environment and provide the critical maritime surveillance and targeting support to attacking air, surface and subsurface systems.

    • Ctrot

      “The threat radars have already countered “5th gen” stealth.”

      That is simply not true. Has there been some progress in countering stealth, yes of course. But is stealth worthless now, absolutely not.

      • Gregory Dittman

        That is true. One big weakness for these new radars is that the U.S. has had anti radar missiles for awhile and these radars most likely have to be stationary due to the power needs.

    • McP

      Nice analysis of the inverted requirements process that has characterized this program.

    • Twitter3021

      Except the Super Hornet is a piece of junk, so that pretty much negates your opinion and analysis.

      • Secundius

        @ Twitter3021.

        I agree with you, I think they should ditch the Super Hornet/Rhino airframe and concentrated on building more Growler airframes.

  • NavySubNuke

    Always good to see the Navy not learning from History. The same admirals who say unmanned aircraft will not be ready to replace manned fighters anytime soon are just the grandsons of the men who said an airplane could never sink a battleship. No one likes change, no one likes being obsolete but burying your head in the sand and ignoring the tide of technology doesn’t prevent that.

    • ed2291

      Absolutely right! This is shameful. Once again our senior brass let us down. In addition to a steadily decreasing fleet that will never reach 300 ships, the brass is calling for less capability. Court martials would not be inappropriate.

      • Secundius

        @ ed2291.

        I hope your right about that number. But, I’m pretty sure in might actually drop to 250-ship’s before 2020 CE.

        • ed2291

          I remember the 600 ship navy. What I meant was brass have continuously allowed the numbers to decline while playing the imaginary game they will be made up in the future fully knowing they won’t. (deliberately lying and weakening national security for their own selfish betterment) We are now below 300 ships and everyone except admirals knows we have no way to realistically ever get back to even 300. Calling for less capability to preserve the glory of aviators makes this situation worse for the sea going sailor. I share the concern of Secundius that our numbers are just going down with no end in sight. The LCS and calls like this to reduce capability of UAVs mean we can’t make up in capability what we lack in numbers. Besides, at some point numbers count.

          • Bob

            If you think any iteration of UCLASS is going to give you more capability than an F-35 or an F/A-18E/F in a strike role, you are sorely out of your element on this topic.

          • ed2291

            The issue is arbitrarily reducing capability in a new system being developed. I believe that is unforgivable. Nobody is saying that UAVs can replace piloted aircraft, but they can certainly play a complementary role for now and may play an even more important role in the future. The F/A-18 has a valuable role to play. I am a more skeptical of the F-35 and placing all our eggs in the high tech stealth mode. I say again at some point numbers – whether of ships or aircraft – count. Our ships are certainly more capable, but to have less ships in our whole Navy than we had deployed at Guadalcanal is worrisome.

          • Secundius

            @ ed2291.

            I really not the disturbing too me,. When you have a dis-functional Congress, that can’t or won’t AGREE to anything and/or FUND anything. I live just 10-minutes away from Washington, DC. And I see this as, what passes for NORMAL in the Federal Government.

          • Secundius

            @ Bob.

            Not if you only have a one 6-plane Section/Squadron aboard each Aircraft Carrier.

          • Secundius

            @ Bob.

            The F/A-18E/F Super Hornet/Rhino, Ordnance Load is 17,750-lbs.
            The EA-18G Growler, Ordnance Load is 17,750-lbs.
            The F/A-35A Lightning II, Ordnance Load is 18,000-lbs.
            The F/AV-35B Lightning II, Ordnance Load is ~13,000-lbs.
            The F/A-35C Lightning II, Ordnance Load is ~19,500-lbs.
            The UAV-47C Pegasus, Ordnance Load is 10,000-lbs.

            Most likely the UCLASS is going to be used High-Risk Surgical-Strikes and Reconnaissance Mission during Night-Time Operations.

          • Secundius

            @ ed2291.

            The only thing that is propping up our Fleet and keep the ChiCom’s at bay, is our Aircraft Carrier Forces. If Congress doesn’t get it act together and our Carrier Forces drop’s below six active aircraft carries. This nation of ours, is going to have some, major serious problems with the Chinese. Not to mention any other 2nd, 3rd and 4th World Forces, that want what we have. Stock Pilled somewhere!!!

      • Secundius

        @ ed2291.

        I don’t think the Pentagon Brass is the problem. Its of Dis/No-functional Congress, that the problem.

    • Ctrot

      Or they could go all out on UAV’s and end up wrong like the admirals who thought no gun on the F-4 was a good idea. I am not sure if we are really technologically ready to depend so much on UAV’s or not and I doubt if you know the answer to that. Let’s just hope the admirals do know and get it right. But second guessing them, when we really have no facts to go on, is pointless.

      • NavySubNuke

        fair point – but there is a difference between going all in and keeping options open. This looks more like a firm push out then a way of keeping the option space open for change.

      • NavySubNuke

        Oh and the F35C has no gun. I am pretty sure the F-35B (marine version) doesn’t have one either.

        • Ctrot

          I have no problem with no gun in a modern fighter/strike aircraft. There is no comparison between the quality and ability of Vietnam era A2A missiles and those in use today. And precision A2G munitions have greatly reduced the need for a gun against ground targets as well.

          • James Hasik

            Since the end of the Vietnam War, only two US aerial victories have been scored with guns. Both were A-10s shooting at enemy helicopters. The gun might still be a backup, but it’s not so obviously essential.

        • disqus_89uuCprLIv

          It will have a gun-in the pilot’s holster.

        • Secundius

          @ NavySubNuke.

          All (3) JSF, were intended to carry or mount, the Rheinmetall Mauser BK 27 (“Bordkanone”/On-Board Cannon) 27x145mm (1.063-inch) Auto-Revolver Cannon. Then, the decision was made to go to General Dynamics GAU-22/A. 4-barrel 25x137mm (0.98-inch) Gatling-type Auto-Cannon system.

          The Air Force “A” Model, has its gun system mounted internally. While both the Marine Corps “B” Model and the Navy “C” Model are intended to be mounted in a Cannon Pod. The “B’ Model, being External Mounted Cannon Pod. And the “C” Model, being Internally Mounted Cannon Pod.

          • NavySubNuke

            interesting – is the pod always present or will it be attached/detached for specific missions/load outs?

          • Secundius

            @ NavySubNuke.

            In the Navy/”C” Model probably Yes. I’m not sure about the Marine Corps/”B” Model cases, most likely No.

            The F/A-35A, has a 12,000-pound Ordnance Load, both Internal/External loading, including gun system.

            The F/AV-35B has a probable 10,000-pound Ordnance Load, both Internal/External loading, without gun pod.

            And, the F/A-35C has a 16,000-pound Ordnance Load, both Internal/External loading, with gun pod.

          • Secundius

            @ NavySubNuke.

            One of the reasons the Rheinmetall Mauser BK 27 (27x145mm/1.063-inch) Auto-Revolver Cannon was chosen. Because of its ability to punch through Tank Armor. All three variant, were intended to be a replacement alternative to the A-10 Warthog.

          • Secundius

            @ NavySubNuke.

            If they were to put the same Ordnance Load on the F/AV-35B as they do on the F/A-35A, the plane would never be able too get of the Gator-Freighter’s Flight Deck. And forget a Cat launch, It would ripe the nose gear off the airframe. The only way you could get the plane airborne, is by a Conventional Rolling Takeoff. Down a long runway.

      • GJohnson

        No one is proposing going all out, but there’s resistance from the pilots, plan and simple. This project want meant as a replacement of the Hornet, but as a complement to it. The prototypes worked, and proved the concept while on deck. That’s the problem that’s brought about this sudden revamp of specifications.

  • http://www.usmc.mil @notrizzo

    I like the idea that the USN is taking a crawl, walk, run approach to unmanned systems, but this certainly makes you think it’s just feet dragging to appease the traditional gold wing lobby.
    Are they looking to have unmanned systems provide targetting for manned aircraft to deliver standoff weapons against peer adversaties (and have flexibility to deliver high number of weapons/sorties vs non-peer/low-threat scenarios) or will the targetting and high end strike come from manned systems and a more “truck” UCASS system deliver the standoff munitions (and also make a nice tanker).
    They need to make up their mellons before they get too far down the current track.

    • Secundius

      @ notrizzo.

      It might make an excellent stable gun platform too. Put either the GAU-19, 3×12.7/99mm Gatling Heavy Machine Guns w/Rotating Mounts or the M134C, 6×7.62/51mm Minigun Machine Guns w/Rotating Mounts in one or more of it Weapon Bays. Park it a fixed altitude orbit around a SEAL Team Unit Operations or Force Recon Unit Operations, at night. For close “Surgical” Gun Support. You might even be able to mount a 25/137mm Bushmaster Auto-Cannon w/Rotating Mounts, also. It would make a nice Force Equalizer.

  • J_kies

    The key UCLASS and UAV issues are autonomy and data links. In a contested environment what exactly do you expect to use for data links? Without data links your stuck with the autonomy of the vehicle to conduct itself in new and threatening environments – this is AI at a level that HAL would aspire to reach. Where are the tools to enable this uber UCLASS because the commercial and scientific communities have no idea that they exist.

  • GJohnson

    History does really repeat itself. There’s no way to afford 3 major naval air programs over the next 30 years, and an SSBN replacement program. Something has to give.

    I’m all for a mix of systems, but there’s clearly fear in the NAVAIR community of being replaced. But it’s inevitable. FX-XX may be the last manned naval fighter, but that won’t be known until UAVs are proven in major combat in contested environments. Thinking further ahead, however, the smaller size and longer range of future systems may enable additional platforms to carry them, placing additional pressure on the future necessity of carriers as we currently know them. Delaying the progress of UAVs may be a tactic to slow this potential eventuality.

  • OAF

    A new low for USNI as they are now deleting unfavorable comments on their articles. Here’s the commentary they deleted. Let’s see if they try to censor me again:

    The USNI UCLASS agenda continues. Sad when “journalists” and bureaucrats think they know more than actual operators. This article is really just a shameful slander of naval aviation in general. This is not even a news article. USNI has decided to launch a smear campaign questioning the professionalism of the warfighters that lead naval aviation. Pathetic.

    The operators are the experts. USNI journalists pushing agendas from “unnamed” sources are not. Perhaps USNI should now lecture the SEAL community on what types of equipment and training they invest in. That would be no more absurd than this piece.

  • disqus_89uuCprLIv

    History repeats to those who ignore it.

    It might be of interest to reflect that the Predator UAV program had to be managed at the SECDEF level with administrative support from Naval Sea Systems Command (not Naval Air Systems Command) with a surface Engineering Duty Officer as Program Manager.

    It was necessary to make this strange management structure to avoid and deter the aviators from stonewalling, delaying or otherwise inhibiting the program.

    After the program was funded and acquiring aircraft, the USAF took on the UAV mission only when directly ordered to by SECDEF. It did not want any aircraft without a pilot.

    Obviously the program was a success!

    Who was that first Predator program manager?

  • CaptainParker

    Looks like the pilots don’t like the idea that if their role is reduced or even minimized, non-pilots might get a shot at commanding a carrier and then getting stars. Pure self-interest here.

    • John

      Aviation officers will still be the ones operating UCLASS and leading UCLASS units. This would have no impact whatsoever on carrier command. You may have noticed there are plenty of non-aviators with stars in the Navy. Pure self-interest? Yes, it is pure self-interest in that these investment decisions will directly impact pilots’ ability to succeed in future combat missions. Trying to make a “dumb” platform like UCLASS perform complex tactical missions against an evolving, adaptive threat that it does not have the capability to successfully defeat will result in these aviation officers not being able to complete assigned missions, defeat the enemy, and be useful to a combatant commander. While this entire debate is treated like a bureaucratic game by people outside of the aviation community, it’s a very real, life-or-death debate for the warfighters that will be asked to fight our future air battles. The Navy wants a UCLASS that will enhance our warfighters’ ability to win battles, and the UCLASS certainly has capabilities to that end. Trying to over-extend UCLASS to perform missions it would not be very good at will only weaken the Navy’s power projection capability.

  • toonearsighted

    “several Navy, Pentagon and industry sources confirmed to USNI News”, “Industry, Pentagon and Navy sources outlined a, “bureaucratic and cultural resistance to the introduction of unmanned aircraft”….all cheap coverage for a story. Authors didnt mention the fact that an FA-XX AoA is tasked with studying manned, unmanned, and optionally manned Family of System alternatives. Or that the timelines involed with UCLASS and FAXX are a decade apart…..the threat having a vote in what either looks like. I havent met an aviator in the building that is afraid of unmanned coming if it contributes to mission success so the unnamed sources must be other communities pontificating about those damned aviators or aviators from days gone by that are wearing suits now. Who in industry thinks they have the autonomy technology in unmanned across all the missions that manned fighters are tasked with for a wholesale replacement? Come on Sam/Dave….enough of the consiracy theory…..it really all comes down to money doesnt it? I have to buy this much stuff now, I dont know what my budget is in the future but I hope to have more freedom then than the BCA allows me to even think about in the next 10 years soooooooo…..price wins. Doesnt have Jack to do with aviators trying to get their manned fighter.

    • Steve

      Spot on.

  • toonearsighted

    Good to see all the folks with “Secretary” in their name know more than those tasked with balancing BOTH the requirement AND the checkbook. An unconstrained view of what this country needs is where the dreamers live. Then those concerned with both that and the resources are left to get pasted in the media……after the unnamed sources have done their thing of course.

  • Secundius

    @ UAV-47C Pegasus, Foo-Attack Aircraft.

    Is a Specialized Mission-Specific Aircraft, with a 10,000-pound Ordnance Loading. Probably operational for night-time use ONLY. And with ONLY 6-plane Squadron, it limits its usefulness, to Mission-Specific Missions (e.g.. Reconnaissance, Deep-Strike, Surgical-Strike, etc.). And, NO I don’t think their going to mount a Auto-Cannon Pod inside one of its internal weapon bays.

  • RobM1981

    The dream of unmanned vehicles performing the work of manned vehicles, even at parity, has been a long time in coming. DASH comes to mind – and that’s a long time ago. But DASH definitely worked. It’s mission was very limited, of course, but it did what it was designed to do (lug a torpedo to a point in space, drop the torpedo, and return).
    SAM’s are basically drones: unmanned rocket aircraft with ever-increasing capabilities to do their one and only job: knock another aircraft out of the sky. And there’s no denying that they are better at it than ever.
    The day when unmanned aircraft can do everything that manned aircraft can do – and even more – is coming. A SAM, for example, already has a flight envelope far in excess of what a human could endure… but that doesn’t mean that it’s as effective as a manned fighter in knocking down other aircraft.
    Maybe it is; maybe it isn’t.
    These are the secrets that our military holds, and must continue to hold.
    But it’s critical to demand that when the science and the data show, clearly, that unmanned aircraft can outperform manned aircraft? Then the Fighter Club must yield.
    They won’t, of course. It’s hard to find more ego than you will in the Fighter Club. Like John Henry, they will never accept that a machine can do their job better than they can.
    But, like John Henry, that day *will* come. It will happen.
    Their duty, as patriots, is to retire gracefully when the time comes and let the best tools and technologies do the job of defending this nation. That is their oath and, unlike their Commander In Chief, we expect and demand that they follow it.
    Does UCLASS do it? I don’t think so. Not yet. But the day is definitely coming…

  • JDC3

    The people who are pushing for UCLASS to be a strike platform are the same people who thought LCS was a good idea. Some of them still do. That alone should give everyone pause.

    • Secundius

      @ JDC3.

      I actually like the FREEDOM class LCS design. But, I think the replace the Bofors 57mm/70-caliber (2.24-inch) Auto-Cannon, with either the BAE 127mm/62-caliber (5-inch) Mk. 45 Mod. 4, Lightweight Deck Gun Mount. Or, with the Rheinmetall W&B 155mm/52-caliber (6.1-inch) MONARC – MOdular Naval ARtillery Concept Deck Gun Mount. And give it a reclassification as a Perimeter Action Ship or Fast Destroyer, Gun class. I just know that really going too piss-you-off.

      • http://www.usmc.mil @notrizzo

        Yea, because a new deck gun will suddenly make the LCS survivable?

  • OAF

    Extremely disturbing that USNI has now deleted this comment for a second time. I guess USNI is all about providing an independent forum to discuss naval issues UNLESS the discussion turns critical of USNI. This censorship only discredits the authors even further. Here is the comment again:

    The USNI UCLASS agenda continues. Sad when “journalists” and bureaucrats think they know more than actual operators. This article is really just a shameful slander of naval aviation in general. This is not even a news article. USNI has decided to launch a smear campaign questioning the professionalism of the warfighters that lead naval aviation. Pathetic.

    The operators are the experts. USNI journalists pushing agendas from “unnamed” sources are not. Perhaps USNI should now lecture the SEAL community on what types of equipment and training they invest in. That would be no more absurd than this piece.

    • Secundius

      @ OAF.

      You must be a Newcomer too the USNI Disqus Group. I’ve had at least (4) of my comment removed in just the two-months. And none of them had Racial, Religious, or any other inflammatory comment in them. I tend to thing they take them out for “New Idea’s Reviewing”. From people with interesting idea’s that warrant any merit. People that not only “Think Outside the Box”, but people that “Think Outside the Cube, Too”.

    • http://news.usni.org/ Sam LaGrone

      @Oaf The Naval Institute values opposing views and robust discussion on any issue. What we don’t tolerate is abusive language that doesn’t forward the conversation. We’ll do a better job in posting our commenting standards and you can return to the conversation with an articulated point of view without the superfluous language that got your comment deleted three times.

      • OAF

        There was nothing “abusive” in the post at all. Are you forwarding the conversation by making baseless, false accusations against an entire corps of professional warfighters and labeling it a “news story”? Maybe you can’t understand how offensive that is because you’re a civilian. And it really just sounds like you guys don’t want to get called out on your biased, agenda-driven stories in front of your readers. Uh-oh, did you think that was abusive? Better delete it, bro.