Northrop Grumman Wins UCAV Contract over Boeing
Northrop Grumman has won the U.S. Navy's Unmanned Combat Air Systems Technology Demonstrator (UCAS-D) contract, worth $635 million over the next six years. The company's proposal for an unmanned combat air vehicle (UCAV) capable of operating from aircraft carriers, designated the X-47B, beat the X-45N submission from Boeing. The decision is ostensibly a big blow for Boeing, which pioneered the development of UCAVs in the U.S. through the X-45 program. But the Pentagon terminated that effort last year, just as Boeing completed building the first of two enlarged X-45C air vehicles. Previously, Boeing flew two smaller X-45As 64 times in a remarkably successful flight test program. But there's more to the Pentagon's recent decisions about UCAVs than meets the eye. In our last survey of UCAVs we suggested that although the U.S. Air Force was less enthusiastic about UCAVs than before, it was funding some new developments in secret. Boeing may still be working on UCAVs, in a "black" program.