Skip Ribbon Commands
Skip to main content
SharePoint
X-47B successfully completes the first autonomous aerial refueling demonstration over the Chesapeake Bay on April 22, 2015. Navy photo.

The Senate Armed Services Committee wants the Pentagon to hurry up and develop a stealthy, unmanned long-range strike aircraft … for the Navy. In its Fiscal 2016 appropriations report, released Wednesday, SASC directed the Defense Department to conduct competitive prototyping “of at least two follow-on air systems” to the X-47B unmanned demonstrator, which has successfully launched from and landed on a carrier, and air-refueled autonomously. The committee wants the competition to run in 2017. The Unmanned Carrier-Launched Strike and Surveillance (UCLASS) aircraft is to be “capable of long-range strike in a contested environment,” according to the report; the same description for the Air Force’s Long-Range Strike Bomber. The SASC granted blanket authority for DOD to use “streamlined procedures for rapid prototyping and rapid fielding,” so long as it gets the technical data rights to develop competitive follow-on systems. Even though the Navy did not request any money for UCLASS for 2016, SASC put back in $725 million, of which $350 million is to be spent continuing to fly the two X-47B prototypes. At the same time, SASC took away $460 million from the Air Force’s LRS-B program. The Navy has said it’s already done everything it planned to do with the Northrop Grumman-built X-47B and that it would be pointless to keep flying it, putting UCLASS on hold until it better understands whether it wants more of a scout or bomber aircraft. SASC seems to have rendered its opinion. (SASC report; Caution, large-sized file)