ST. LOUISBoeing was “very disappointed” with the Pentagon’s decision to re-examine the requirements for the U.S. Navy’s Unmanned Carrier Launched Surveillance & Strike (Uclass) program, according to Boeing Defense, Space & Security President and CEO Chris Chadwick, but expects to be in a good position “when Uclass re-emerges.” 

Chadwick believes that is likely to happen next year.

“We have had extensive discussions at a very senior level,” about the Pentagon’s course changes on Uclass, Chadwick says. The changes have reflected internal disagreements about the vehicle’s mission and the extent of stealth technology to be incorporated into the platform. “If the industry is to continue investing in these opportunities, the Defense Department has to solidify its requirements. It does nobody any good to do R&D for the sake of R&D.”

Boeing is believed to have completed, or nearly completed, an UAV intended to demonstrate its technologies for Uclass. It was developed by Boeing’s Phantom Works using company funds.

By contrast, Chadwick said the U.S. Air Force’s T-X advanced trainer program, on which Boeing has been teamed with Saab since the fall of 2013, has had stable requirements. “The Air Force across the board—the acquisition community, the requirements people and senior leadership—have been shoulder-to-shoulder, evolving requirements in a steady, smart way.”

Chadwick expressed some skepticism here about the Pentagon’s desire to compete major block upgrades on the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter and other programs, as expressed last week in Washington by Air Force acquisition chief William LaPlante (Aerospace DAILY, May 18). “The original equipment manufacturer has an advantage,” when it comes to hardware upgrades, he said, “because they know the platform better than anyone else. Any incumbent should have an edge in a fair and open competition.”