I have previously posted on this program. Now it seems to be coming to an end. I suspect budget priorities are the reason.
There are no plans to extend the testing for its Unmanned Carrier Air Vehicle demonstrator (UCAS-D) program after this month’s planned autonomous aerial refueling (AAR) tests, Naval Air Systems Command officials said on Tuesday.
Following the end of the testing contract the service plans to donate the two Northrop Grumman X-47B unmanned aerial vehicles — Salty Dog 501 and Salty 502 — to a museum or resign them to the Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group (AMARG) at Davis Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz. — the Pentagon’s so-called aircraft “boneyard,” said Capt. B.V. Duarte, program manager of NAVAIR’s PMA-268 that oversees UCAS-D and the Navy’s planned Unmanned Carrier Launched Surveillance and Strike (UCLASS) programs.
The airframes have many more hours of service life so the reasons may be Obama’s budget priorities.
Last month, Senate Armed Services Committee chair Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) issued a strongly worded letter to Secretary of Defense Ash Carter on the UCLASS program and encouraged Carter to keep flying the UCAS-D airframes.
“Our nation has made a sizeable investment in this demonstration program to date, and both air vehicles have consumed only a small fraction of their approved flying hours,” wrote McCain.
Following the test program “there will be no unmanned air vehicles operating from carrier decks for several years. I think this would be a lost learning opportunity in what promises to be a critical area for sustaining the long-term operational and strategic relevance of the aircraft carrier.”
It will probably take a new president to get this program back on track. Or a serious attack on the US.