Northrop Grumman has been awarded a contract from the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) to continue work on the X-47B portion of the Joint Unmanned Combat Air Systems (J-UCAS) demonstration program. Valued at up to $1.04 billion over five years for the program’s operational assessment phase, the award includes initial funding of $30 million.
The J-UCAS program is an effort by DARPA, the US Air Force and US Navy to demonstrate the technical feasibility, military utility and operational value of networked, unmanned, air-combat systems to suppress enemy air defences, perform electronic attack, conduct intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance missions, and perform precision strike attacks.
In this phase, Northrop Grumman will produce and flight-test three X-47B unmanned demonstration vehicles with associated mission-control stations and logistical support elements. Flight demonstrations are expected to begin in 2007.
Northrop Grumman’s Integrated Systems sector leads a J-UCAS team that includes Lockheed Martin and Pratt & Whitney. Work will be performed at facilities in El Segundo, Palmdale and San Diego, California, and East Hartford, Connecticut.
“Consistent with DARPA’s objective of fielding demonstrators with warfighting potential, the X-47B promises to be a highly capable air warfare system, well suited to support the full spectrum of military operations,” said Scott Winship, Northrop Grumman’s J-UCAS program director.
“It will be very stealthy and thus highly survivable,” continued Winship. “It will carry a wide variety of sensors with a large internal weapons payload and be fully networked into the military’s emerging joint operational architecture. Aerial refuelling will allow it to provide persistent coverage deep into the battlespace from long distances.”