A previous version of this post misstated the chairman of the Defense Acquisition Board. It is Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics (AT&L) Frank Kendall, not vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. James “Sandy” Winnefeld. Winnefeld chairs the Pentagon’s Joint Requirements Oversight Council.
WASHINGTON, D.C. — The review of the Pentagon’s unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) portfolio that stalled the acquisition of the Navy’s first operational carrier-based UAV has completed its early phase, the Navy’s chief acquisition official said on Wednesday.
The Office of Secretary of Defense (OSD) comprehensive review — which delayed release for the 2014 request for proposal (RFP) for the Unmanned Carrier Launched Airborne Surveillance and Strike (UCLASS) — is complete enough to inform the Navy’s Fiscal Year 2016 budget submission due early next month, said Sean Stackley, assistant secretary of the Navy for Research, Development and Acquisition (RDA).
“We did an extensive portfolio review on unmanned — not just UCLASS — in the fall review as part of the budget process. I can’t give you much more than that at this stage. It’s going to be part of our budget submission,” Stackley told reporters.
“There’s more work to be done and that will continue on into this calendar year as we prepare for [2017 budget request].”
OSD representatives had nothing to add to Stackley’s statement when contacted by USNI News on Wednesday.
Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) was on the cusp of a September 2014 release of the RFP to four companies — Lockheed Martin, Boeing, General Atomics and Northrop Grumman — when OSD called for the review.
“Determination regarding the release of the UCLASS RFP will be made based on the results of this review,” RDA spokeswoman Cmdr. Thurraya S. Kent told USNI News in August.
The review followed an August meeting overseen by Deputy Secretary of Defense Bob Work — who has written extensively on the need for a heavy strike naval UAV before joining the Pentagon — on the shift in UCLASS from a stealthy, penetrating, carrier-based strike platform to an asset that would be used as primarily an ISR asset with a light strike ability.
Whether the Navy has revised its controversial stance on creating information, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) heavy UCLASS — which USNI News understand is being designated as RAQ-25 — with limited strike as a result of the review is still very much unclear.
However, whatever the Navy does present in February will likely have at least OSD’s tacit approval and will likely restart the RFP process for the system. The program was waiting the final stamp from the Defense Acquisition Board (DAB), led by Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics (AT&L) Frank Kendall, ahead of the final RFP.
UCLASS was to have been fielded by 2020.