• Thanks for stopping by. Logging in to a registered account will remove all generic ads. Please reach out with any questions or concerns.

US UAV, esp. UCAV, progress

MarkOttawa

Army.ca Fixture
Reaction score
136
Points
710
If advanced, stealthy, UCAVs work out as hoped (and with cruise missiles also available), will there be any need for manned fighters such as the F-35 for the initial strike role against and through heavy and effective air defence systems? (Usual copyright disclaimer.)

New generation of unmanned spy planes is being tested
Three drones being flown in the coming weeks are speedier, stealthier and higher-flying.

http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-drone-warfare-20110111,0,4325330.story

An experimental spy plane with a wingspan almost the size of a Boeing 747's took to the skies over the Mojave Desert last week in a secret test flight that may herald a new era in modern warfare with robotic planes flying higher, faster and with more firepower.

The massive Global Observer built by AeroVironment Inc. of Monrovia is capable of flying for days at a stratosphere-skimming 65,000 feet, out of range of most antiaircraft missiles. The plane is built to survey 280,000 square miles — an area larger than Afghanistan — at a single glance. That would give the Pentagon an "unblinking eye" over the war zone and offer a cheaper and more effective alternative to spy satellites watching from outer space.

The estimated $30-million robotic aircraft is one of three revolutionary drones being tested in coming weeks at Edwards Air Force Base.

Another is the bat-winged X-47B drone built by Northrop Grumman Corp., which could carry laser-guided bombs and be launched from an aircraft carrier. The third is Boeing Co.'s Phantom Ray drone that could slip behind enemy lines to knock out radar installations, clearing the way for fighters and bombers.

These aircraft would represent a major technological advance over the Predator and Reaper drones that the Obama administration has deployed as a central element of the U.S. military campaign in Afghanistan. Unlike most of the current fleet of more than 7,000 drones, the new remotely piloted planes will have jet engines and the ability to evade enemy radar.

"We are looking at the next generation of unmanned systems," said Phil Finnegan, an aerospace expert with Teal Group, a research firm. "As the U.S. looks at potential future conflicts, there needs to be more capable systems."

Finnegan pointed out that propeller-driven Predator and Reaper drones are not fast or stealthy enough to thread through antiaircraft missile batteries. Boeing's Phantom Ray and Northrop's X-47B, by comparison, "can enter contested air space, attack the enemy, and leave without detection on a radar screen [emphasis added]," he said...

Century City-based Northrop is building the X-47B drone at Plant 42 in Palmdale under a $635.8-million contract awarded by the Navy in 2007.

Currently, combat drones are controlled remotely by a human pilot. With the X-47B, which resembles a miniature version of the B-2 stealth bomber, a human pilot designs a flight path and sends it on its way; a computer program would guide it from a ship to target and back.

"The X-47B represents game-changing technology that will allow American forces to project combat power from longer distances without putting humans in harm's way," said Paul Meyer, general manager of Northrop's Advanced Programs & Technology division.

Boeing's Phantom Ray is being built in St. Louis with engineering support from its Phantom Works facilities in Huntington Beach. The company does not have a contract; it is developing the drone at its own expense...

On the other hand:

Military services should consider common course in chase for updated unmanned aircraft
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2011/01/10/AR2011011006252.html?referrer=emailarticlepg

...
Even in this new era of tighter budgets, the Defense Department fixation on UAVs has played to the worst of what still remains of interservice rivalries.

The Government Accountability Office, the Defense Department's own inspector general and, more recently, Congress have each tried to rein in the enthusiasm.

In July 2009, the GAO called attention to 10 UAV programs where its investigators found "cost increases [totaling $3 billion], schedule delays, performance shortfalls or some combination of these problems." More important, the GAO found that while Gates's office "encouraged more commonality between these [Army, Navy, Marine and Air Force] programs . . . most of the programs assessed continued to pursue service-unique requirements."

Since that report, Congress and senior Defense Department officials have continued to push for commonality. Nevertheless, the GAO in March found that along with development of more advanced UAVs, the military services "do not appear to focus on increasing collaboration or commonality among unmanned aircraft programs."..

Mark
Ottawa

 

MarkOttawa

Army.ca Fixture
Reaction score
136
Points
710
Into the air:

Northrop UCAS-D Completes First Flight
http://www.aviationweek.com/aw/generic/story_channel.jsp?channel=defense&id=news/awx/2011/02/04/awx_02_04_2011_p0-287709.xml

Northrop Grumman’s X-47B unmanned combat air system (UCAS-D) demonstrator successfully completed its long-delayed first flight at Edwards AFB, Calif., on Feb. 4.

The stealthy, single-engine UCAS took off early in the afternoon Pacific time and landed some 29 min. later, having achieved an altitude of 5,000 ft. Aimed at gathering air vehicle management system data, the first flight also marks the start of a roughly 50-flight, year-long Block 1 envelope expansion test campaign at Edwards. Initial flight rate is expected to be once per week, rising to twice a week later in 2011.

Northrop and U.S. Navy officials passed the tailless, flying wing demonstrator for taxi tests at a flight readiness review in early November 2010.

The first air vehicle, AV-1, was rolled out in December 2008 but the start of flight tests has been delayed by engine-related acoustic and starting problems as well as issues related to software complexity. The Navy’s first dedicated stealth aircraft since the canceled General Dynamics/McDonnell Douglas A-12, the X-47B was originally due to fly in November 2009.

Following corrective actions and a rebalancing of the program towards carrier landings in 2013 rather than late 2011 as originally planned, the final timing of first flight came down to securing a suitable launch window at Edwards.

Longer term, a key priority remains landing on an aircraft carrier and proving that the unmanned system can operate in the carrier environment. Northrop says this will be a key confidence-building step to gaining widespread Navy support to eventually acquire UCAS-type systems that can ultimately perform the stealthy strike mission intended for the A-12 [emphasis added--and the F-35C which is in part an A-12 replacement
http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/systems/aircraft/a-12.htm ],
but with the increased range and endurance of an unmanned aircraft...

More:

X-47B begins three-year demonstration with first flight over Edwards
http://www.flightglobal.com/articles/2011/02/05/352817/x-47b-begins-three-year-demonstration-with-first-flight-over.html

...
getAsset.aspx

...
Northrop Grumman X-47B
Overall Length: 11.6m (38.2ft)
Wingspan: 18.9m (62.1ft)
Height: 3.2m (10.4ft)
Aircraft Carrier Takeoff Gross Weight: About 20,412kg (44,500lb)
Speed: High subsonic
Power Plant: Pratt & Whitney F100-220U
Payload Provisions: 2,041kg (4500 pounds), plus electronics...

Mark
Ottawa
 

karl28

Sr. Member
Reaction score
0
Points
210
This was an interestering article to read thanks for posting it .
 

MarkOttawa

Army.ca Fixture
Reaction score
136
Points
710
karl28: And thanks to you--video here:
http://www.aviationweek.com/aw/blogs/defense/index.jsp?plckController=Blog&plckScript=blogScript&plckElementId=blogDest&plckBlogPage=BlogViewPost&plckPostId=Blog%3a27ec4a53-dcc8-42d0-bd3a-01329aef79a7Post%3ad4d32ba1-617b-40ac-a749-5e3e4ad9b2f0

Plus:

...
Here's a 15-minute snippet of the press conference on 5 February with Northrop Grumman and Navy officials....
http://www.flightglobal.com/blogs/the-dewline/2011/02/video-us-navys-first-stealth-u.html

Mark
Ottawa
 

MarkOttawa

Army.ca Fixture
Reaction score
136
Points
710
And for the USAF and our Air Force?

Manned and unmanned planes in the Navy's future
http://www.signonsandiego.com/news/2011/feb/11/manned-and-unmanned-planes-navys-future/

The Navy celebrates its centennial of flying today with a massive aerial parade over San Diego Bay, where the first brave naval pilot came to earn his wings.

But looking ahead to the next 100 years, or even the next decade, Navy aviation may be a tailless airplane, flown by a nonpilot with enlisted stripes on his sleeve...

Navy brass say the burgeoning use of unmanned aerial drones could mean fewer bright-eyed young officers will be minted into pilots in the coming generation.

Instead, what’s possible is rooms full of sharp, enlisted drone operators working eight- to 12-hour shifts as their vehicles stay in the air for a day or more...

Navy Secretary Ray Mabus, who arrived in San Diego Friday for today’s aerial parade, said he expects to see a steady increase in the use of drones.

“We cannot allow our technological lead to evaporate,” he said. “Last year, the Air Force had more pilots in unmanned systems than they did in manned systems. And I think that that’s a trend.”

But the Pentagon is also investing in manned jets for the Navy. The United States has spent $50 billion to develop the F-35, a new class of fighter jet that is supposed to be stealthier, more reliable and a technological wonder. Given this major investment of tax dollars, most observers say the human military pilot will not be placed on the endangered species list anytime soon.

Drones will be used for the jobs that are dull, dirty and dangerous: around-the-clock surveillance, reconnaissance in contaminated areas and “suicide” missions to draw enemy fire, for example.

And piloted aircraft will be called when the Navy needs split-second decision-making at the scene...

Right now, the people operating the Navy’s three major unmanned programs — the Fire Scout helicopter, the Broad Area Maritime Surveillance plane
http://topics.signonsandiego.com/topics/Broad_Area_Maritime_Surveillance
and the upcoming aircraft carrier jet drone — are pilots, and mostly officers.

Rear Adm. William Shannon III, the Navy’s point man for unmanned aviation, said that equation may well change with the advance of technology.

“If we automate the system well enough, it’s possible in the future that the person who actually controls the air vehicle could be a senior enlisted,” said Shannon...

The future of Naval aircraft

The Pentagon increased its spending on unmanned aircraft tenfold between 2001 and 2008, according to a RAND Corp. report. The Navy’s arsenal of drones is less advanced than that of the Air Force, which has been flying armed Predator and Reaper aircraft. But the Navy is poised to launch a new carrier drone and expand its use of far-ranging surveillance craft.

X-47B Unmanned Combat Air System Demonstration (UCAS-D)

Designed by Northrop Grumman, this drone goes right to the heart of naval aviation: the aircraft carrier. It made its first successful test flight Feb. 4, and in 2013 it is expected to begin demonstrating its ability to land and take off from a carrier.

This vehicle is designed to perform surveillance and fire weapons.

MQ-8B Fire Scout

Also by Northrop Grumman, this helicopter-like drone can take off and land vertically.

The Navy currently has five Fire Scouts deployed, three in Afghanistan and two aboard the aboard the frigate Halyburton, which is on a counter-piracy mission in the Persian Gulf.

In August, an MQ-8 made news in the United States because it became unresponsive to commands during testing and entered restricted airspace around Washington, D.C.

MQ-4C Broad Area Maritime Surveillance (BAMS) system [something we should be looking at?]

Another Northrop Grumman product, this drone looks something like a conventional airplane. It is designed to conduct marathon surveillance missions of up to 30 hours over water. Northrop was awarded the contract in April 2008 to create the MQ-4C as a maritime version of the Army’s Global Hawk...

Mark
Ottawa
 

MarkOttawa

Army.ca Fixture
Reaction score
136
Points
710
As for Pentagon's proposed 2011-12 budget:
http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2011-02-14/boeing-craft-helicopters-gain-in-pentagon-s-671-billion-defense-budget.html

...
Also included is $4.8 billion for unmanned drones made by privately held, San Diego-based General Atomics and Los Angeles- based Northrop Grumman Corp. The Air Force and Army are requesting $2.5 billion for General Atomics Reaper and Grey Eagle drones.

The Air Force is requesting $1.6 billion in procurement and development of RQ-4 Global Hawk surveillance drones. The Air Force also decided to truncate the advanced Block 40 Global Hawk at 11 aircraft from 22, saving $428 million through 2016...

Mark
Ottawa
 

FoverF

Full Member
Reaction score
0
Points
210
If advanced, stealthy, UCAVs work out as hoped (and with cruise missiles also available), will there be any need for manned fighters such as the F-35 for the initial strike role against and through heavy and effective air defence systems?

No.

But...

1) That is a big "if". Best case scenario sees the UCAVs follow the F-22 lead, triple in cost and double in timeline. Worst case scenario sees them follow the KC-X lead, and tens of billions of dollars get poured directly into the pockets of lawyers, lobbyists, Randy Cunningham, manufacturers, advertisers, and bureaucrats, without a single airframe ever being built.

2) There are plenty of other roles that will need a manned fighter for the forseeable future. Nobody is talking about air defence being done by UCAVs, and the USN still needs a fighter capable of taking on 5th gen opponents. No forseeable Hornet upgrade will do that. They need SOME kind of new, manned, airframe for that.

3) The 'initial strike' concept, of door-breaking followed by mop-up, was nothing more than a fad from 10-15 years ago, and was never borne out by history. Right from WWI to the air campaign over Kosovo, we almost universally see that air defences (regardless of their effectiveness) tend to be extremely difficult to extinguish, and it is most often only done by events on the ground, rather than assault from the air. The Luftstreitkraft was never defeated in the air. Although the Luftwaffe suffered from many handicaps by the end of WWII, it was still flying missions, and its' sortie rate was limited only by fuel supplies. Go through the wars in Korea, Viet Nam, most of the Arab-Israeli conflicts (with the one notable exception to prove the rule), the Iran-Iraq war, the '91 Gulf War, the war in Kosovo, and in almost all of them you will see a similar trend. Although one side may have a decisive advantage, their opponent's ability to resist is only gradually eroded, and generally only eliminated by events on the ground. If an opponent can resist on day 1, they can resist on day 90.
 

MarkOttawa

Army.ca Fixture
Reaction score
136
Points
710
FoverF:  The RAF expects eventually to use UCAVs for air-to-air combat.  Back at the USN:

X-47B Sorties Ramping Up
http://www.aviationweek.com/aw/generic/story_channel.jsp?channel=defense&id=news/awst/2011/02/14/AW_02_14_2011_p28-288506.xml&headline=X-47B%20Sorties%20Ramping%20Up

The U.S. Navy is building on the successful first flight of the stealthy, tailless Northrop Grumman X-47B demonstrator as a pivotal step toward the long-held goal of marrying persistent, autonomous unmanned intelligence and strike aircraft with the reach of its fleet of aircraft carriers.

“We’re celebrating the centennial of Naval aviation, and if we fast-forward 100 years, then we’ve added three words—unmanned, autonomous and LO [low-observable] relevant,” says Capt. Jaime Engdahl, the Navy’s Unmanned Combat Air System (UCAS) project director. The X-47B flight-test program, which began with a 29-min. flight at Edwards AFB, Calif., on Feb. 4 will answer questions about what it takes “to put unmanned, autonomous and LO-relevant into the carrier environment.”

Though proving the viability of the once unthinkable concept of autonomous combat air operations from the carrier, UCAS is also a critical technology stepping-stone to the Navy’s planned Unmanned Carrier-Launched Surveillance Systems (Uclass) program. “Just as important is the technology we embed into the carrier itself,” says Engdahl, referring to the data link and related communication breakthroughs that UCAS-D is expected to demonstrate as part of a planned seamless integration of unmanned aircraft into carrier air wing operations.

While Engdahl describes the first flight of an unmanned Navy X-plane as a “huge deal,” another industry executive notes its significance as an interim step to a future fleet of carrier-borne unmanned combat vehicles. “It is the start of an intent for unmanned aviation on a carrier. It is not the carrier landing—that will be a big deal, too,” says Carl Johnson, Northrop Grumman’s vice president of program management. But this first flight represents the beginning of unmanned tactical aircraft for the Navy.”

The test program will work toward carrier landings in 2013. It will then turn to prove the concept of aerial refueling, which would eliminate onboard fuel storage as a limiting factor for mission endurance in future combat UAS...

Success of the demonstrator will be key to achieving the planned follow-on purchase of an interim fleet of Uclass. “What [UCAS] moves us into is Uclass—a carrier based-system—for the first time,” says Rear Adm. Matthew Klunder, director of intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) at Navy headquarters. The service hopes to kick off a competition as soon as this year to field up to eight air vehicles on a carrier in 2018 [emphasis added].

Northrop is expected to build off of its X-47B experience, Boeing will use its X-45-based Phantom Ray background and General Atomics will likely use its Avenger concept as a departure for its design. Lockheed Martin is also likely to bid, building off of work on the Polecat demonstrator and the RQ-170 now fielded by the Air Force...

Video here:
http://www.aviationweek.com/aw/blogs/defense/index.jsp?plckController=Blog&plckBlogPage=BlogViewPost&newspaperUserId=27ec4a53-dcc8-42d0-bd3a-01329aef79a7&plckPostId=Blog%3a27ec4a53-dcc8-42d0-bd3a-01329aef79a7Post%3a8ab307ea-8855-44bc-b6d2-f862b7849c5b&plckScript=blogScript&plckElementId=blogDest

Mark
Ottawa
 

MarkOttawa

Army.ca Fixture
Reaction score
136
Points
710
Aussies interested:

U.S. Navy Details Basing Plans For BAMS
http://www.aviationweek.com/aw/generic/story_channel.jsp?channel=defense&id=news/awst/2011/03/07/AW_03_07_2011_p30-293755.xml

The U.S. Navy expects its first Broad Area Maritime Surveillance (BAMS) unmanned aerial system (UAS) base to achieve initial operational capability in late 2015, somewhere in the Persian Gulf.

BAMS-LeithenFrancis.jpg


“The intention is to base BAMS in the 5th Fleet,” says Capt. Robert Dishman, the U.S. Navy’s program manager for BAMS.

Though the 5th Fleet is headquartered in Bahrain, Dishman says the U.S. is still in negotiations with countries in the region regarding basing the UAS. If piracy continues to be a problem in the Gulf of Aden, then these UAS will also be used there, he adds.

Besides the Middle East, there will be two bases in the U.S.—one on the East and one on the West Coast—as well as a base in Sicily for the Mediterranean and one at Guam, from which the U.S. Air Force operates Global Hawk UAS. Italy has already agreed to the Sicilian base, he notes.

The Navy plans another base in the Western Pacific, Dishman says, and while it has had low-level discussions about this with Asia-Pacific nations, no formal request has been made...

When asked if export customers for BAMS could base their UAS at Guam, Dishman replies, “I would say definitely. If a country purchases a BAMS capability, it should be able to leverage off the U.S. Navy and use U.S. Navy BAMS sites.” After all, that is what being in a coalition is all about, he adds.

Dishman spoke to Aviation Week on the sidelines of Australia’s Avalon air show, held here March 1-6, where he says he spent much time meeting with Australian Defense Force officials. Australia is considered the most likely BAMS buyer in the region. The country was involved in the BAMS cooperative development effort but later withdrew. The U.S. Navy does have a “data exchange agreement with Australia,” Dishman notes. “We do keep the relationship going” and “we are regularly in discussions,” he says...

As for Australia, Dishman says the BAMS production line capacity and demand from the U.S. Navy are such that Northrop Grumman could produce BAMS UAS for export customers “shortly after 2015 [emphasis added].” But if Australia wants those early delivery slots, “decisions have to be made soon,” he adds...

More:
http://www.navair.navy.mil/index.cfm?fuseaction=home.displayPlatform&key=F685F52A-DAB8-43F4-B604-47425A4166F1
http://www.as.northropgrumman.com/products/bams/index.html

Might not BAMS also be useful for Canada for maritime surveillance?  It seems more suited for the role than the general purpose Project JUSTAS U(C)AV the CF are working on (and which seems to be going nowhere fast):
http://www.merx.com/English/SUPPLIER_Menu.Asp?WCE=Show&TAB=1&PORTAL=MERX&State=7&id=PW-%24ATP-003-17562&print=Y&src=&ForceLID=&HID=&hcode=fjvTdQRJX0kXOEfZaRyjhw%3d%3d

Surely a two type fleet would be possible, in order to optimize mission capabilities.

Mark
Ottawa
 

CougarKing

Army.ca Fixture
Reaction score
0
Points
360
uclass.jpg


Lockheed Martin Has An Impressive New Drone Concept

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.

Business Insider link

Video:
youtube link
 

CougarKing

Army.ca Fixture
Reaction score
0
Points
360
The Associated Press
Thursday, May 2, 2013 | 2:09 a.m


The Navy is inaugurating its first squadron with unmanned aircraft, formally adopting drone technology amid debate over its growing use in warfare.

Military officials will launch the maritime strike squadron called "Magicians" on Thursday at the Naval Air Station North Island base on Coronado, near San Diego.

The squadron will have eight manned helicopters and a still-to-be-determined number of the Fire Scout MQ-8 B, an unmanned helicopter that can fly 12 continuous hours, tracking targets.


Read more: Las Vegas Sun
 

dimsum

Army.ca Legend
Mentor
Reaction score
4,071
Points
1,260
Re the USN Maritime Strike Sqn:

So the Fire Scout folks get all the pain of sailing and none of the fun of flying?  No thanks.  :mad:
 

CougarKing

Army.ca Fixture
Reaction score
0
Points
360
While this update seems like it might be better placed in the China superthread, this was posted here at the UAV/UCAV thread for comparative purposes.

Meanwhile, across the Pacific, the Chinese PLA's own drone program appears to be accelerating its development...

China's Drone Program Appears To Be Moving Into Overdrive

BEIJING -- Determined to kill or capture a murderous Mekong River drug lord, China's security forces considered a tactic they'd never tried before: calling a drone strike on his remote hideaway deep in the hills of Myanmar.

The attack didn't happen – the man was later captured and brought to China for trial – but the fact that authorities were considering such an option cast new light on China's unmanned aerial vehicle program, which has been quietly percolating for years and now appears to be moving into overdrive.

Chinese aerospace firms have developed dozens of drones, known also as unmanned aerial vehicles, or UAVs. Many have appeared at air shows and military parades, including some that bear an uncanny resemblance to the Predator, Global Hawk and Reaper models used with deadly effect by the U.S. Air Force and CIA. Analysts say that although China still trails the U.S. and Israel, the industry leaders, its technology is maturing rapidly and on the cusp of widespread use for surveillance and combat strikes.

"My sense is that China is moving into large-scale deployments of UAVs,"
said Ian Easton, co-author of a recent report on Chinese drones for the Project 2049 Institute security think tank.

China's move into large-scale drone deployment displays its military's growing sophistication and could challenge U.S. military dominance in the Asia-Pacific. It also could elevate the threat to neighbors with territorial disputes with Beijing, including Vietnam, Japan, India and the Philippines. China says its drones are capable of carrying bombs and missiles as well as conducting reconnaissance, potentially turning them into offensive weapons in a border conflict.

China's increased use of drones also adds to concerns about the lack of internationally recognized standards for drone attacks. The United States has widely employed drones as a means of eliminating terror suspects in Pakistan and the Arabian Peninsula.

"China is following the precedent set by the U.S. The thinking is that, `If the U.S. can do it, so can we. They're a big country with security interests and so are we'," said Siemon Wezeman, a senior fellow at the arms transfers program at the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute in Sweden, or SIPRI.

"The justification for an attack would be that Beijing too has a responsibility for the safety of its citizens. There needs to be agreement on what the limits are," he said.

Though China claims its military posture is entirely defensive, its navy and civilian maritime services have engaged in repeated standoffs with ships from other nations in the South China and East China seas. India, meanwhile, says Chinese troops have set up camp almost 20 kilometers (12 miles) into Indian-claimed territory.

It isn't yet known exactly what China's latest drones are capable of, because, like most Chinese equipment, they remain untested in battle.

The military and associated aerospace firms have offered little information, although in an interview last month with the official Xinhua News Agency, Yang Baikui, chief designer at plane maker COSIC, said Chinese drones were closing the gap but still needed to progress in half a dozen major areas, from airframe design to digital linkups.

Executives at COSIC and drone makers ASN, Avic, and the 611 Institute declined to be interviewed by The Associated Press, citing their military links. The Defense Ministry's latest report on the status of the military released in mid-April made no mention of drones, and spokesman Yang Yujun made only the barest acknowledgement of their existence in response to a question.

"Drones are a new high-tech form of weaponry employed and used by many militaries around the world," Yang said. "China's armed forces are developing weaponry and equipment for the purpose of upholding territorial integrity, national security and world peace. It will pose no threat to any country."

Drones are already patrolling China's borders, and a navy drone was deployed to the western province of Sichuan to provide aerial surveillance following last month's deadly earthquake there.

They may also soon be appearing over China's maritime claims, including Japanese-controlled East China Sea islands that China considers its own. That could sharpen tensions in an area where Chinese and Japanese patrol boats already confront each other on a regular basis and Japan frequently scrambles fighters to tail Chinese manned aircraft.

Retired Maj. Gen. Peng Guoqian told state media in January that drones were already being used to photograph and conduct surveillance over the islands, called Diaoyu by China and Senkaku by Japan.

The Pentagon says Chinese drones could boost the effectiveness of long-range radar in monitoring activity and locating targets in the western Pacific far from the Chinese coast. Their missions could include guiding home an anti-ship ballistic missile known in military circles as a "carrier killer," the Pentagon said in its 2012 report on China's military.

Reports about the search for notorious river bandit Naw Kham, wanted for the 2011 murders of 13 Chinese sailors, offer some clues about China's plans for drones.

The head of the Chinese Public Security Ministry's anti-narcotics bureau, Liu Yuejin, was quoted by state media as saying a plan had been floated to target Naw Kham's fortified camp with a drone loaded with 20 kilograms of TNT. The type of drone wasn't mentioned.

The plan was dropped by higher-ups in favor of taking Naw Kham alive, but the revelation served as a statement of Chinese intentions and capabilities.

China began developing drones in the 1960s and is believed to have used them for reconnaissance during its brief 1979 invasion of Vietnam. The program was aided by the adaptation of foreign civilian or dual-use UAVs for military purposes, then took a leap forward with the purchase of Harpy drones from Israel. Later, U.S. opposition to Israeli upgrades on the Harpys spurred China to build its own version.

China's gains are aided by the industry's relatively low costs and short production schedule and boosted by the assembly of the country's homebuilt Beidou navigation satellite system and improved high-speed data links.

China's military is expected to field hundreds, if not thousands, of drones, although the overall size of the fleet is difficult to estimate and the U.S. will ultimately have many more.


Chinese UAVs range from simple propeller-driven models to the high-concept, stealthy Dark Sword, featuring a joined wing and tail assembly similar to the U.S. Avenger.

More than 90 percent of the Chinese drones now in service are variants on the simpler ASN-209 surveillance drone seen in navy drills and which are now being produced under license by Egypt.

Others include the Wing Loong, or Pterodactyl, which bears a striking resemblance to the U.S. Reaper and carries a brace of missiles. Chinese media reports and air show staff say it has been exported to countries in the Middle East and Central Asia, possibly the United Arab Emirates and Uzbekistan, at just a fraction of the Reaper's price tag of $30 million each.

Military officials in the UAE and Uzbekistan declined to comment on the reports.

Another combat drone being offered for export, the CH-4, has space for four missiles and is said to be able to fly continuously for 30 hours.

Even more ambitious is the Xiang Long BZK-005, similar to the U.S. Global Hawk. It has a reported 6,437-kilometer (4,000-mile) range and is roughly the size of a medium-size fighter jet. Deployment may be some time off, however, and a 2011 crash points to rumored problems with the guidance system.

Further developments could see China competing with world's two major drone producers, the United States and Israel, for markets in close ally Pakistan, Myanmar and other developing nations. Customers might even include Russia, which is the world's No. 2 arms exporter but has had little success making UAVs.

There are some indications China may already be exporting know-how to Pakistan, given design similarities between Chinese drones and Pakistan's Shahpar UAV, said Huw Williams, an expert on drones at Jane's Defence Weekly. However, Williams said China will likely struggle to find customers for its larger drones, given limited demand and the large number of countries developing such systems of their own.

"They're very interested in getting into this market," SIPRI's Wezeman said. "Another few years and they will have caught up."

more
 

dimsum

Army.ca Legend
Mentor
Reaction score
4,071
Points
1,260
The X-47B UCAS-D successfully launched from an aircraft carrier yesterday.  Next test will be a carrier landing, scheduled for the summer.

http://www.navy.mil/submit/display.asp?story_id=74120

Pics: 

http://www.navy.mil/view_image.asp?id=151128
http://www.navy.mil/view_image.asp?id=151133
http://www.navy.mil/view_image.asp?id=151127
http://www.navy.mil/view_image.asp?id=151122
 

CougarKing

Army.ca Fixture
Reaction score
0
Points
360
A hot debate on the DC beltway about the future of USN carrier aviation...

Military.com

Carrier-Based Drone Plan Takes Flak From Lawmakers

A U.S. Navy plan for aircraft carrier-based drones has launched a dogfight in Washington over the role of the robotic planes in combat.

The Navy has asked contractors for reconnaissance drones -- essentially spy planes, with only limited ability to carry out bombing missions behind enemy lines.

But key congressional leaders want cutting-edge warplanes, stealthy drones that can attack key targets in contested areas with little more than a mouse click. If they get their way, the program, which would produce the military's first carrier-based drones, could end aviation as the Navy has known it, observers say.



"It could usher in a new era in which major strike missions are turned over to a machine. That will be difficult for many carrier aviators to swallow," said Samuel D. Brannen, senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies and a former Pentagon strategist.

(...EDITED)

The X-47B, a stealthy bat-winged drone built by Northrop Grumman, was catapulted off an aircraft carrier's flight deck and soared above the Atlantic before returning for a landing. The historic feat was compared to the Navy's first catapult of a manned aircraft, which occurred in 1915.

"It isn't very often you get a glimpse of the future," Navy Secretary Ray Mabus said at the time. "The operational unmanned aircraft soon to be developed have the opportunity to radically change the way presence and combat power are delivered from our aircraft carriers."

(...EDITED)
 

CougarKing

Army.ca Fixture
Reaction score
0
Points
360
A demonstration that UAVs can do joint ops with manned platforms:

Defense News

Navy Flies Manned, Unmanned Carrier Jets Together For First Time
Aug. 18, 2014 - 07:09PM  |  By MEGHANN MYERS

NORFOLK, VA. — It was one small button push for man and one giant catapult launch for the US Navy’s unmanned air combat program Sunday as the X-47B flew its first takeoffs and landings with F/A-18s on the aircraft carrier Roosevelt.

Off the Virginia coast, two Hornets and one X-47B practiced launches and traps in the same pattern, testing the unmanned jet’s ability to take off and land safely, then move out of the way to allow a manned aircraft to come in right behind it.


It was a first for the US Navy’s Unmanned Combat Air System Aircraft Carrier Demonstration program, said Rear Adm. Mat Winter, program executive officer for Unmanned Aviation and Strike Weapons at Naval Air Systems Command in Patuxent River, Maryland.

The testing was an important step in the US Navy’s push to advance its aerial strike and surveillance technology, figuring out where unmanned capabilities can enhance the effectiveness of the carrier air wing.

(...EDITED)
 

CougarKing

Army.ca Fixture
Reaction score
0
Points
360
Funding halted for the USN UCAV:

National Defense Magazine

Navy Halts Funding for Northrop Grumman’s Carrier-Based Combat Drone
By Sandra I. Erwin

As it reconsiders its unmanned aviation strategy, the Navy has decided to cease funding the X-47B bat-winged drone that made aviation history in recent years.

The first-ever autonomous unmanned aircraft to be launched from and recovered on a carrier deck, the X-47B, is likely to run out of funding by the end of fiscal year 2016. The Navy has not requested money for the program in its fiscal year 2017 budget.

The X-47B remains in “standby status” at the Naval Air Systems Command at Patuxent River, Maryland, Capt. Beau Duarte, the Navy's Unmanned Carrier Aviation program manager, told National Defense Feb. 10 in a statement.


(...SNIPPED)
 

MarkOttawa

Army.ca Fixture
Reaction score
136
Points
710
More on demise of UCLASS, rise of CBARS--but will Congress go along?

1) Pentagon Kills Its Killer Drone Fleet
The U.S. military spent billions developing an armed drone that could take off from an aircraft carrier. But now, the Pentagon says it doesn’t want that kind of flying robot at all.

Cutting-edge killer drones will not be flying over the world’s oceans any time soon. The Defense Department’s budget proposal for 2017, released on Feb. 9, terminates an on-again, off-again program dating back to the late 1990s that aimed to develop a bomb-hauling robotic jet capable of launching from and landing on the U.S. Navy’s aircraft carriers.

The decision to cancel the so-called Unmanned Carrier Launched Airborne Surveillance and Strike is reflected in the Defense Department’s 2017 budget proposal, released on Feb. 9. The proposal shows a combined $818 million in funding for the UCLASS killer drone program in 2015 and 2016 and, abruptly, no money at all in 2017.

Instead, there’s a new budget line for 2017—a meager $89 million for a so-called “Carrier Based Aerial Refueling System.” In other words: Goodbye, drone death from above. Hello, flying robot gas stations...

48509514.cached.jpg

...
http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2016/02/11/pentagon-kills-its-killer-drone-fleet.html?via=desktop&source=twitter

2) Behind the U.S. Navy's Killer Drone Strategy Shift

The U.S. Navy has chosen to develop an unmanned carrier-based aerial refueling tanker, instead of a robotic stealth bomber in a decision that, in effect, kills two birds with one stone.

Firstly, it gives the service a chance to learn how to operate a drone from a flattop. Secondly, the Navy needs an organic carrier-based aerial refueling capability to extend the range of its stealthy Lockheed Martin F-35C Joint Strike Fighters and Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornets. As an added bonus, it also takes some of the pressure off the hard-ridden tactical fighter fleet.

“I want to get something on the deck of an aircraft carrier—unmanned—as quickly as we can with a legitimate role to play because there is so much we have got to learn there,” Adm. John Richardson, U.S. Navy’s chief of naval operations, told an audience at the American Enterprise Institute on February 12. “So many unexplored questions.”

That is why the Navy has changed its strategy. While in previous years, the service had hoped to develop a modestly stealthy Unmanned Carrier Launched Surveillance and Strike (UCLASS) aircraft to afford the carrier air wing an organic persistent intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) and light strike capability, the new effort—called the Carrier-Based Aerial Refueling System (CBARS)— is a much more modest effort. Moreover, it’s a far cry from the ultra-stealthy, ultra long-range deep strike capability that many in Congress and the Washington think-tank community had originally wanted...
http://www.nationalinterest.org/blog/the-buzz/exposed-behind-the-us-navys-killer-drone-strategy-shift-15204

Mark
Ottawa
 

Eye In The Sky

Army.ca Legend
Reaction score
1,979
Points
1,060
I've said it before...RPAs/UAVs can't do everything, and there are and will be many things only a crewed platform can do the right way.
 

SeaKingTacco

Army.ca Fixture
Donor
Reaction score
4,574
Points
1,010
It strikes me that a UAV tanker is a very sensible idea. It solves a lot of problems for a Carrier Air Wing.
 
Top