The Pentagon’s No. 2 official will meet with Navy officials to discuss requirements for the service’s carrier drone development program as the release date for the formal request for proposal slides to the right, Navy officials said.
Deputy Defense Secretary Bob Work and other top Pentagon officials will meet with the Navy as part of a larger meeting with all the services to discuss the Defense Department’s aviation portfolio. Following this portfolio review, the Pentagon’s Defense Acquisition Board will meet later this month to provide final approval on the requirements for the Unmanned Carrier Launched Airborne Surveillance and Strike system, or UCLASS.
The Navy had planned to issue the formal RFP by the end of July and that still could happen, it appears that August seems more likely. The U.S. Naval Institute first reported the upcoming meeting between Work and Pentagon officials and the Navy regarding the UCLASS requirements.
The UCLASS program has faced a series of ongoing Pentagon reviews of the requirements for the drone following criticism from lawmakers that said the Navy is not designing enough stealth and pay load capabilities into the first version of the aircraft.
Rear Adm. Mathias Winter, Program Executive Officer, unmanned aviation and strike weapons, addressed some of these concerns and the overall health of the program Monday at the Farnborough International Airshow outside London.
"An analysis of alternatives already identified that this warrants a Navy unique capability. Our job now is to ensure we have the right set of design requirements to give to industry to deliver that capability," Winter said.
The ongoing reviews regarding the UCLASS drone’s mission scope, design and requirements for the program do not appear to be derailing or delaying the Navy’s plans for the program, said Winter.
Last summer, the Navy awarded four contracts valued at $15 million for preliminary design review for the UCLASS to Boeing, General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman
Winter said a formal Request for Proposal detailing program requirements will be released within the next several weeks, an initiative which will formally start the process moving toward formal source selection. A 10-month long selection process will follow the release of the RFP.
“The final RFP will be given to the four vendors. They will have 60-days to refine their proposals. At that time we will begin formal source selection and we will evaluate the proposals,” he added.
Since the Navy had said they planned to release the RFP this month, it remains to be seen whether the RFP can be released before August after the DAB was forced to be pushed back.
Navy officials maintain that a slight delay, if it even happens, would be a minor developmental in light of the overall positive progress of the program and the drone’s technology.
Correction: On Friday, DoDBuzz had reported the Navy was considering the creation of a new joint capabilities development document. Navy officials said Monday this is not the case. DoDBuzz also incorrectly stated that the DAB had recently met to discuss the final UCLASS requirements.