Further to this post last May,
Pentagon to Navy: Convert UCLASS Program Into Unmanned Aerial Tanker, Accelerate F-35 Development, Buy More Super Hornets
The Navy’s Unmanned Carrier Launched Airborne Surveillance and Strike (UCLASS) effort is being retooled as primarily a carrier-based unmanned aerial refueling platform — one of several Pentagon directed naval aviation mandates in the service’s Fiscal Year 2017 budget submission.
The shift from UCLASS to the new Carrier Based Aerial Refueling System (CBARS) will be made alongside an additional buy of Boeing F/A-18 E/F Super Hornets over the next several years [see “How Long Will the F/A-18E/F Line Growl On?“] and accelerated purchases and development of the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lighting II Joint Strike Fighter (JSF).
The trio of budget moves seeks to blunt the Navy’s looming strike fighter shortfall, move more stealth capability sooner into the carrier air wing and create a development path for future unmanned systems onboard the service’s fleet of nuclear carriers, according to the rationale the Pentagon put forth to the service several defense officials told USNI News.
The budget submission – in part informed by the Pentagon’s UAV strategic program review (SPR) led by Deputy Secretary of Defense Bob Work – will also include 15 F-35C JSFs in 2017 and plan for an additional 14 Super Hornets in FY18, USNI News understands.
“That study found that you need a mix of all of these things,” a defense official told USNI News on Monday [Feb. 1]…
The latest Pentagon direction for the fate of UCLASS changes the character of the program from the Navy’s intended information, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) platform that would patrol while the rest of the carrier air wing was at rest, to an aircraft that will actively operate with the air wing.
…[Congress in] last year’s National Defense Authorization Act set aside “$350.0 million for continued development and risk reduction activities of the Unmanned Combat Air System Demonstration (UCAS–D) aircraft that would benefit the overall UCLASS program, and $375.0 million to be used for a competitive prototyping of at least two follow-on air systems that move the Department toward a UCLASS program capable of long-range strike in a contested environment [emphasis added],” according to the joint statement on the legislation.
Its unclear if the new CBARS will build off the FY 2016 NDAA funds or make a new request as part of the budget. UCLASS had planned to enter the fleet by 2022 or 2023…
Meanwhile in Canada (note last comment):