While the defense industry waits for the Navy to release details for the UCLASS drone, a separate but related drone, the X-47B, continues to undergo testing. The latest step: On Sunday, it was launched from the USS Theodore Roosevelt, an aircraft carrier, alongside an F/A-18E Super Hornet in the Atlantic Ocean. Navy officials hailed it as the first successful integration of carrier-based drones and fighter jets — something the service must get right in order to integrate the two in the future.
As Checkpoint covered previously, the 44,000-pound first landed on a carrier — the USS George H.W. Bush — last summer. The X-47B is seen by many as a precursor to the even larger UCLASS fleet of aircraft. But as the debate continues to rage over how large the Pentagon can afford to make the UCLASS drone, some analysts argue that the Navy can’t afford to cut corners in making it lethal.
The more weapons and technology that are added to the next generation of drones, the more expensive they will be. That’s politically difficult in an era where the Defense Department faces close scrutiny over its budget.
The specifications for the UCLASS drone are expected to be released within weeks.