By Robert Johnson, April 9 2013
Already obsessed with drones, the U.S. military is looking for new ones to fill a vital role.
America needs drones to guard its aging fleet in foreign waters, extend a ship’s strike distance using standard aircraft carrier ordnance, and do all of it based from the carrier itself. That will allow flight deck operations 24-hours-a-day, seven-days-a-week with no pilots at risk, and no huge jets to re-fuel.
It’s a tall order that demands an array of technology that just barely exists and is scattered among various vehicles. Some drones are great at surveillance, some at blowing stuff up, and some at water-based landings, but one that will do all three is yet just a dream.
When the military wants its dreams made real it often goes to the place with a history of doing just that, Lockheed Martin’s Skunkworks. The California-plant has been knocking out super-advanced military tech for decades, and it is one of four facilities in the race to produce this new drone.
Boeing, Northrop Grumman, and General Atomics round out the groups expected to compete against Lockheed. While each have a portion of the technology already in use, Lockheed alone is bringing technology from the most expensive weapons program in the history of the world.
By including elements of the F-35C vertical lift model, with proven components of the RQ-170 drone, Lockheed and Skunkworks may have a leg up on the competition.
To prove it the company released a concept video of its design. Called the Unmanned Carrier Launched Airborne Surveillance and Strike (UCLASS) the video lays out its impressive plans.