Initial Operational Capability (IOC):
Also Known As: UCLASS and Unmanned Carrier-Launched Airborne Surveillance and Strike
Origin: United States of America
Parent System: MQ-25 Stingray
Initial Operational Capability (IOC): 2026
Maiden Flight: 2021
Total Production: 4
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Description: The Unmanned Carrier-Launched Airborne Surveillance and Strike (UCLASS) is a US Navy program intended to deliver an affordable unmanned combat vehicle. The UCLASS aircraft is expected to build on the X-47B demonstrator with carrier launch, recovery and air refueling capabilities. The new aircraft is expected to feature a new engine as well as advanced sensors. An over wing air intake and tailless design will translate into a more stealthy combat aircraft. The UCLASS aircraft may enter into service in the 2025-2030 timeframe. In 2016 the UCLASS program was re-designed as the MQ-25 Stingray to deliver the US Navy an unmanned combat air vehicle (UCAV) with different specifications and goals. On August 30, 2018, Boeing was selected to build the MQ-25A unmanned refueler under a $805 million contract with four aircraft to be produced through 2024.
The US Navy MQ-25 Stingray responds to the Carrier-Based Air-Refueling System (CBARS) requirement with secondary Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) capabilities. The MQ-25 is also expected to deliver bombs and missiles in future versions but its primary role will remain air tanker aircraft in support of the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet and F-35C fleets. Besides, the MQ-25 may also serve as communications relay aircraft. The new aircraft is expected to follow the wing-body-tail design with limited stealth capabilities to reduce the development costs and external pylons instead of internal weapons bay. In September 2016, the US Navy awarded two risk reduction contracts to Boeing and Lockheed Martin. General Atomics and Northrop Grumman are also bidding for this contract. Two MQ-25 unmanned carrier aviation air system prototypes are expected to fly by late 2017. The US Navy is expected to choose a winner in September 2018 and the resulting aircraft system may enter service in 2024-2026.
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