Details released by Lockheed Martin suggest that its entry into the Unmanned Carrier Launched Surveillance and Strike (UCLASS) aircraft program will be highly adaptable internally, with a flying wing design.
"There is nothing inherently unique about a flying wing, but we have a lot of experience with them," says Robert Ruszkowski, director of Lockheed's UCLASS program development. Mr. Ruszkowski seems to be taking a very pragmatic view of what few specifications the Navy has released.
"The Navy has made it clear they would like to have the ability to put new sensors or new mission systems onboard UCLASS over time," says Ruszkowski. "Obviously open architecture facilitates that."
To that end, Lockheed has also revealed that they have built a full-scale mock-up of their UCLASS concept. Mr. Ruszkowski states that the mock-up has "...been a good engineering tool to look at fit checks."
The fit checks would include ever-changing sensors and payloads, but that would also allow room for hardware that lets a pilot "fly" more than one drone at a time. Primarily, the UCLASS will be autonomous, only being controlled "by exception" — meaning when the need arises.
As to what missions the UCLASS will be taking on, adaptations in payload would allow the UCLASS to confront a wide array of threats — from permissive airspace to area denial environments. To this Ruszkowski adds: "We think there is an element of the mission set that might be for long range operations, but it is truly not for large payloads at long ranges."
While much is yet to be understood about the nature of the UCLASS, it looks like we can expect a quick, carrier-based drone with a lot of adaptability to come out of the project.
Via Flight Global