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UCAS-D / N-UCAS concept
November 3/20: Environmental Assessment The US Navy prepared a draft environmental assessment for home-basing of the MQ-25A Stingray carrier-based unmanned air system at Naval Base Ventura County in Point Mugu, California. The Stingray is an aerial refueling drone. It will serve as a tanker capable of refueling aircraft in flight. The Stingray will also be capable of conducting intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance operations. The drone first flew on September 19, 2019. Boeing is developing the MQ-25. According to the company, will „provide the needed robust refueling capability thereby extending the combat range of deployed Boeing F/A-18 Super Hornet, Boeing EA-18G Growler, and Lockheed Martin F-35C fighters“. According to the draft released by the USN, the Stingray will fly approximately 960 flights annually at Point Mugu. The home basing will bring 730 personnel and their family members to the base. A new hangar will be constructed northeast of the base with two taxiways to link to the existing Taxiway B.
The idea of UAVs with full stealth and combat capabilities has come a long way, quickly. Air forces around the world are pursuing R&D programs, but in the USA, progress is being led by the US Navy.
Their interest is well-founded. A May 2007 non-partisan report discussed the lengthening reach of ship-killers. Meanwhile, the US Navy’s carrier fleet sees its strike range shrinking to 1950s distances, and prepares for a future with fewer carrier air wings than operational carriers. Could UCAV/UCAS vehicles with longer ranges, and indefinite flight time limits via aerial refueling, solve these problems? Some people in the Navy seem to think that they might. Hence UCAS-D/ N-UCAS, which received a major push in the FY 2010 defense review. Now, Northrop Grumman is improving its X-47 UCAS-D under contract, even as emerging privately-developed options expand the Navy’s future choices as it works on its new RFP.
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