See that big, fancy, sophisticated drone up top? It's the X-47B, one of the candidates for the US Navy's new Unmanned Carrier-Launched Airborne Surveillance and Strike drone, or UCLASS for short. With "Surveillance" and "Strike" in its name, though, it's rather curious that the Navy can't really figure out what to use the drone for.
"The ongoing debate about whether the primary role of the UCLASS system should be mainly surveillance with limited strike or mainly strike with limited surveillance has delayed the program," a report from the Government Accountability Office, obtained by IHS Jane's, said.
That's right, the very purpose of the UCLASS program is in doubt, and that's caused several years in delays, in some cases, Jane's reports. Despite strong supporters for a strike-oriented drone, like hawkish Senator John McCain, the GAO claims that opting for a strike-oriented drone would be more costly and could lead to the Navy's work on the UCLASS being rendered obsolete by delays.
"If the final UCLASS requirements emphasize a strike role with limited surveillance, the Navy will likely need to revisit its understanding of available resources in the areas of design knowledge, funding, and technologies before awarding an air system development contract," the GAO's report said.