The futuristic unmanned aircraft formerly known as the Unmanned Carrier Launched Aviation and Strike System (UCLASS) has
gone through a bit of an identity crisis lately.
Now it seems as if no one is quite sure what to call
the unmanned fixed-wing aircraft that is envisioned to
be the first such aircraft to fly off an aircraft carrier.
Some still call it UCLASS. Some call it the Carrier-Based Aerial Refueling System (CBARS). Some call it
the RAQ- 25. But Capt. Thurraya Kent, spokeswoman
for the assistant secretary of the Navy for Research,
Development and Acquisition, said the Navy is officially calling it the MQ-XX Stingray.
Why the name changes? It is because the fundamental mission behind the aircraft has changed.
UCLASS was envisioned as a big part of the future
of fighter aircraft operating from carrier decks, alongside F-35s and F/A-18s, launching strikes and conducting surveillance without a man in the cockpit.
But Congress expressed concern about this plan due
to the fact that it seemed the UCLASS would be a jack-
of-all-trades instead of a platform that would have a
focused job. Eventually, the Navy agreed, and has
focused on a main mission for the MQ-XX Stingray: aer-
ial refueling, with intelligence, sur-
veillance and reconnaissance (ISR)
and limited strike capabilities.
“The MQ-XX Stingray is the next
step in the Navy’s evolutionary integration of unmanned air systems
into the carrier strike group’s operational environment,” Kent said. “As
part of our incremental approach,
MQ-XX will allow the Navy to
deliver carrier-based unmanned
capability to the fleet faster. When
fielded, MQ-XX will deliver a high-endurance organic aerial refueling
and ISR capability.”
With unmanned aerial refueling, the Navy hopes to be able to extend the “
performance, efficiency and safety” of manned aircraft and
give them longer range and greater endurance to allow
them to do missions they otherwise would not be able
“MQ-XX will help to preserve the power projection
dominance of the nation’s carrier fleet,” Kent added.
The Navy already has done a lot of the hard work to
develop the concept of an unmanned aircraft operating
aboard a carrier with the X-47B demonstrator program,
which has concluded. And since there has been no
request for proposals (RFPs) yet, it is not too late to
make fundamental changes in the program.
“MQ-XX Stingray will leverage existing Navy programs of record and considerable industry investment
to reduce total program cost, increase system design
maturity and ensure interoperability with existing
DoN/DoD [Department of the Navy/Department of
Defense] systems,” Kent said. “For example, the X-47B
Unmanned Combat Air System demonstration effort
reduced risk for critical technologies requiring maturation and X-47B test data, and lessons learned will
inform the MQ-XX concept of operations and technical designs.”
After years of wrangling over the UCLASS mission,
the Navy forges ahead with a new purpose and new name
By DANIEL P. TAYLOR, Special Correspondent
Preserving Power Projection
The Navy now is officially calling the Unmanned Carrier Launched
Aviation and Strike System (UCLASS) the MQ-XX Stingray.
; The UCLASS was envisioned as an unmanned platform operating from carrier decks alongside F-35s and F/A-18s, launching
strikes and conducting surveillance.
; A main mission for the MQ-XX will be aerial refueling with intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, and limited strike capabilities.
; Boeing, Lockheed Martin, General Atomics and Northrop Grumman are all working on their own offerings for the lucrative bid.