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Senate Panel Wants Pentagon to Craft ‘Stable Requirements’ for UCLASS

Artist's conception of a Northrop Grumman X-47B.

Artist’s conception of a Northrop Grumman X-47B.

The Senate Appropriations Committee on Defense (SAC-D) supports the U.S. Navy request for $403 million to continue the development of the Unmanned Carrier Launched Airborne Surveillance and Strike (UCLASS) aircraft — with conditions.
The committee is mandating that the service get the approval of the Joint Requirements Oversight Council approval before releasing a final request for proposal, according to a copy of the committee’s mark obtained by USNI News.

“The Committee is concerned that the Navy is proceeding with UCLASS development prior to the formal establishment of stable requirements,” reads the SAC-D mark.
“For example, earlier this year, the Navy issued a second draft request for proposals for the air segment, which included changes to the key performance parameters from the original draft.”

The SAC-D language states that industry teams were forced to “significantly change their air vehicle designs” to meet the new requirements.

“This could have been avoided if the UCLASS requirements had been formally established through a Joint Requirements Oversight Council approved capability development document (CDD] prior to issuing a draft request for proposal,” the bill reads. “The Committee is concerned that the Navy is avoiding basic acquisition practices at the outset of a very large development program.”

As such, the SAC-D is mandating that the Navy get a formal approval for the UCLASS requirements from JROC before moving forward with the program.

The SAC-D move follows a House Armed Services Committee restriction of the requested funds as part of the Fiscal Year 2015 National Defense Authorization Act restricts a planned $403 million in UCLASS funding.

Until now, the Senate has been largely silent on the controversial UCLASS program.

  • vincedc

    Wasn’t it congress that told the Navy to increase the mission capability of the platform? I thought the Navy was just looking at patrol and ECM missions, but congress wanted them to add the strike capability at the last minute

  • Diogenes

    UCLASS is a great development that will revolutionize naval air power when it is fully developed – if it survives Congressional boondoggling. Without the need for life support systems the 30 or 40 percent increase in useful capacity of the airplane without any worry about pilot survivability gives the UCLASS a tremendous physical and psychological advantages over manned systems – if the Navy can figure out how to make a survivable platform to launch it from. It is much easier to be incredibly brave when the only things risked are treasure and prestige – although ADM Halsey would probably be dismayed. Two things are still at great risk… uninterrupted comm between UAV and controller and the egos and reputations of six or seven generations of Naval Aviators who created an enviable record of bravery and resourcefulness flying off carrier decks. Can the institutional memory of those fine people accept that carrier aviation as we now know it today is already doomed by existing technology and must be retired? Are todays fighting admirals willing to retire 100,000- ton behemoths of old?