The Defense Department was set to release this summer the final request for proposal for the Unmanned Carrier-Launched Airborne Surveillance and Strike, or UCLASS, aircraft, but divisions within the department about the scope of the program and the Navy’s requirements of the drone have led to repeat delays.
Already, the drone has become a symbol of a broader debate withinDOD about what capabilities future carrier air wings need, particularly whether they need a long-range penetrating surveillance and strike aircraft. At this point the UCLASSprogram is so deeply troubled that the most sensible action DOD leaders can take is send the program back to the drawing board to begin scoping requirements from scratch.
This time, however, department leaders should make clear from the outset that UCLASS is meant to fill a gap. It is a long-range stealthy aircraft meant to give aircraft carriers greater reach in a new age.