Mark Collins – Drones, or, New Semi-Super US Navy UCAV: What Will the Stingray be?

Further to this post and “Comments” on the program formerly known as UCLASS,

New US Navy Drones: UCLASS to be Tankers Not Recon/Strike?

the service is still working out the unmanned combat air vehicle’s capabilities (and strike now seems perhaps a tertiary mission):

Navy, Industry Looking for Design ‘Sweet Spot’ for MQ-25A Stingray

Striking the balance between a tanker and a surveillance aircraft is an area of concern for Navy aviation planners and industry as they craft what will be the service’s first operational, carrier unmanned aerial vehicle, commander of Naval Air Forces said on Thursday [Aug. 18].

Once tasked with being primarily an information, surveillance and reconnaissance aircraft native to the carrier strike group, the Navy’s first push into unmanned fixed wing aviation – MQ-25A Stingray — will now fulfill a badly needed tanker role for the air wing in addition to the ISR mission, said Vice Adm. Mike Shoemaker during a presentation at the Center for Strategic and International Studies and co-hosted by the U.S. Naval Institute.

The Navy has recently collected the results from a draft request for proposal for the Stingray program and is currently mulling the results from competitors Boeing, General Atomics, Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman. Based on the responses, the Navy is refining the requirements for the full RfP expected next year. Affordability will be a key requirement to the program, USNI News understands.

The problem that industry and the service are dealing with is the ISR and the tanking mission inherently requires two very different types of aircraft shapes or planforms, Shoemaker said.

A primarily ISR UAV would be a high-endurance platform “probably not carry a lot of fuel, have a large wingspan,” to be an efficient platform, Shoemaker said..

Regardless of the final composition of the Stingray airframe, the introduction of a new tanker to the carrier air wing will be a welcome relief to the service. Anywhere from 20 to 30 percent of Boeing F/A-18 E/F Super Hornet sorties are for mission tanking and are placing unexpected stress on the airframes that have been in high demand in the last several years [and see here for why that tanking is ever-more needed for fighters’ range: “Making the Case for the Eagle’s Carriers vs the Dragon: NOT]…

Lots follows on possible designs, with images. Plus could USN drones eventually have an anti-sub role?

How the US Navy Can Crush the Biggest Threat to Its Aircraft Carriers: Enemy Submarines

Recently on those carriers’ likely increasingly threatened future (reason again that tanking needed for the strike aircraft):

War Between the Dragon and the Eagle: USN Carriers up to It?

Mark Collins, a prolific Ottawa blogger, is a  Fellow at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute; he tweets @Mark3Ds


5 thoughts on “Mark Collins – Drones, or, New Semi-Super US Navy UCAV: What Will the Stingray be?”

  1. USN CNO: MQ-25 Stingray to be tanker primarily, ISR to come later–and not stealthy; Need range, range, range for the combat aircraft vs China and Russia (CNO himself did not say that):

    Mark Collins

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