23 Mar 16. USN still pursuing unmanned strike aircraft. Key Points:
• The US navy still intends to pursue unmanned maritime strike with knowledge from its UCLASS successor
• A UCLASS solicitation was delayed for more than a year while various factions fought over options for a long-range strike aircraft and a smaller ISR aircraft
The US Navy (USN) earlier this year transformed its developmental Unmanned Carrier-Launched Surveillance and Strike (UCLASS) unmanned aircraft programme into a ship-based aerial refuelling tanker with intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) capability, but the service has not abandoned plans for an unmanned strike aircraft, a senior official said on 22 March.
Now known as the Carrier Based Aerial Refueling System (CBARS), the new platform will begin life as a tanker with ISR capability, USN air warfare director Rear Admiral Michael Manazir said at an Air Force Association briefing. “Future long-range strike will capitalise on the learning we do with this platform,” he said.
By developing CBARS, the navy is using the most rapid and affordable method for deploying unmanned aircraft from its carrier decks. “We are very anxious to get unmanned aircraft onto the aircraft carrier,” the admiral said. “CBARS will do tanking and ISR [and] is how we get unmanned [aircraft] onto the carrier rapidly and at the least cost.”
The navy surprised defence analysts ahead of the White House’s fiscal year 2017 budget request by quietly revealing plans to transform the UCLASS programme into CBARS. The service delayed issuing a solicitation for UCLASS for more than a year while various factions within the navy, at the Pentagon’s upper echelon and on Capitol Hill, wrangled over requirements – with some pushing for a long-range, heavily armed strike aircraft and others advocating for a smaller aircraft primarily geared towards an ISR role.
Under the revised plan, the new unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) retains some ISR capability in addition to its new refuelling role, but it does not carry ordnance and is not stealthy. (Source: IHS Jane’s)
20 Mar 16. India Finalizes $3bn Blueprint for UAV Fleets. Indian defense forces have finalized a blueprint to procure more than 5,000 UAVs over the next 10 years for about US $3bn, and tenders will be restricted to domestic companies that can tie up with foreign firms, said a Ministry of Defence source. Lack of industrial expertise, combined with delays and cost overruns, have stymied past efforts to develop and produce indigenous UAVs for tactical requirements. These efforts also were limited to state-owned companies. “In the future, the private sector will be involved in a big way to meet all future requirements of UAVs,” said an MoD official. In the next three to five years, the Indian Army proposes to equip UAVs down to the battalion level, while the Air Force plans to have fully operational squadrons of surveillance UAVs and unmanned combat aerial vehicles (UCAV). (Source: glstrade.com/Defense News)
22 Mar 16. Air Force, Army Need Separate Drones, Generals tell Congress.
Missions for the Army and Air Force are unique enough that the services will likely need to fly their own separate unmanned platforms for the foreseeable future, according to service leaders.
“I think the similarities and the cross talk is going to continue but we kind of have different mission sets, so we can design systems for those mission sets,” Gen. Herbert “Hawk” Carlisle, the head of Air Combat Command, told Air Force Times. “Right now I don’t see them overlapping near as much as Navy, Air Force, and Marines all flying the F-35. I don’t see that same overlap.”
Carlisle spoke to reporters following a Senate Armed Services Subcommittee on Airland hearing where lawmakers asked the same question, wondering whether the two services should be working more closely together on their remotely piloted aircraft programs, including the Army’s MQ-1C Gray Eagle and the Air Force’s MQ-9 Reaper.