Forbes pushes Navy on new drone requirements

Rep. Randy ForbesRandy ForbesHouse GOP defense policy bill conferees named Ex-special ops group blasts Clinton email decision GOP rep faces recount in close primary race MORE (R-Va.) wants to ensure that the Navy intends to build the new UCLASS drone fully equipped for both precision strikes and surveillance.

Forbes sent a letter to Navy Secretary Ray Mabus on Wednesday urging him to develop the UCLASS platform so it has “long-term utility to warrant full funding amidst severe defense budget constraints.”

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Forbes, the House Armed Services Seapower subcommittee chairman, said the Navy plans to soon release a draft Request for Proposal (RFP) for the UCLASS, a drone in development that the Navy plans to add to its carrier air wings.

In his letter, Forbes told Mabus that the UCLASS should pay special attention to aerial refueling, survivability, lethality and payload.

“With UCLASS being the Navy’s only current currently planned, unmanned strike aircraft, I place a premium on optimizing internal payload carriage capacity and versatility to support the needs of both the carrier-strike group commander and the geographical combatant commander,” Forbes wrote.

In August 2013, the Navy awarded $15 million contracts to four defense firms — Northrop Grumman, Lockheed Martin, Boeing and General Atomics — to develop designs for the UCLASS.

But the Navy has delayed the RFP for the next stage of the UCLASS program, and the 2014 National Defense Authorization Act limited the number of drones that the Navy could acquire in the initial stages of development, according to the U.S. Naval Institute.