Add an ‘F’ to that Drone?

Navy’s UCLASS Could Be Air to Air Fighter

131109-N-SB233-218 ATLANTIC OCEAN (Nov. 9, 2013) The experimental X-47B Unmanned Combat Air System Demonstrator (UCAS-D) is secured by support staff in the hangar bay aboard the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71). Theodore Roosevelt is the third carrier to test the tailless, unmanned autonomous aircraft's ability to integrate with the carrier environment. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman John M. Drew/Released)

X-47B Unmanned Combat Air System Demonstrator (UCAS-D) on Nov. 9, 2013. US Navy

[US Navy director of air warfare Rear Adm. Mike] Manazir Manazir contemplated the possibility that that the UCLASS, which is primarily being designed for the intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) and strike roles, could be used as a flying missile magazine which could supplement the firepower of the F/A-18E/F and F-35C Joint Strike Fighter in air-to-air combat as a robotic wingman of sorts.

“Maybe we put a whole bunch of AMRAAMs (Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missile) on it and that thing is the truck,” Manazir said. “So this unmanned truck goes downtown with—as far as it can go—with a decision-maker.”

In Manazir’s vision the UCLASS could be commanded remotely from a Northrop Grumman E-2D Hawkeye or a Lockheed Martin F-35C Joint Strike Fighter flight leader.