According to a number of American analysts, the fifth-generation multi-purpose fighter F 35 may be the last in stories sea aviation US manned combat aircraft. Further development of naval aircraft will go, as they believe, along the lines of creating unmanned combat systems. Whether this forecast will come true - time will tell. In the meantime, we must admit that the United States Navy has shown the greatest consistency and determination in the formation of its promising "combat drone."
At the beginning of 1998, the first stage of conceptual research of a UNSA unmanned naval strike aircraft (Unmanned Naval Strike Aircraft), commissioned by the US Navy with the participation of the companies Boeing, Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman, was completed. Like the air force combat drone, the new naval apparatus had to deal mainly with the air defense pressure and ensuring the actions of the manned strike aircraft. In this case, the main emphasis was placed on the elaboration and evaluation of technical solutions that ensure the take-off and landing of the UAV on the ship.
Three different types of UNSA vehicles were investigated, two of which were intended for operation from the deck of large surface ships (landing craft, cruisers, destroyers, etc.), and one from a submarine. According to the plan, the UAV had to solve approximately the same range of tasks and carry unified armament. One of the devices, designed for use with surface ships, was designed for a shortened horizontal takeoff and vertical landing (STOVL concept), and the second for vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL). "Boat" drone should start from vertical shafts of ballistic missiles like "Trident".
In the autumn of 1998, Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman, as well as the US Navy, held a joint meeting to summarize the research. As part of the further development of the program, Lockheed Martin proposed a variant of a horizontal takeoff and vertical landing deck aircraft (STOVL) equipped with a main-wing jet engine leading the take-off fan in front of the fuselage (i.e., a draft of a diminished unmanned fighter F-35V).
The Northrop Grumman UNSA STOVL project had two lift fans installed in the wing (such a layout based on sufficiently in-depth research and design 1960-1970-s, according to the designers of the company, had a lower degree of technical risk).
The UAV VTOL projects of Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman were designed for vertical takeoff and vertical landing on the tail. At the same time, the Northrop Grumman project provided for the use of small one-time solid-fuel accelerators, facilitating the start and transition from vertical to horizontal flight. For takeoff and landing, it was planned to use a turntable, setting the device in a vertical position so that the exhaust gases of the main engine and launch accelerators would be sent overboard the ship.
Perhaps the greatest technical difficulty was the creation of a UAV (Launched & Recovered UCAV Concept), designed to be placed in modernized missile mines of nuclear submarines of the Ohio type. The Lockheed Martin firm proposed a draft of an unobtrusive apparatus with a pronounced “faceted” glider shape with folding aerodynamic surfaces. Its launch was to be carried out in the submerged position of a submarine from the Trident rocket shaft using two solid-fuel boosters similar to those used on Tomahawk cruise missiles. A drawing was published of one of the possible layouts of such an apparatus, having a fuselage of triangular cross section and a vertical tail of a large area (almost equal to the area of the wing console), oriented downwards. Discharged weapons were supposed to be placed in four cargo compartments formed on the sides of the fuselage and in the center section. The device, which has a wingspan of 5,8 m, a length of 5,2 m and a starting mass (together with powder accelerators) equal to 3410 kg, should have a transonic speed and a combat radius of action of the order of 1000 km.
A completely logical conclusion was made that the most critical elements of UNSA are ensuring the return of the vehicle to the carrier’s boat and preparation for reuse while the submarine is in a submerged position. However, according to representatives of the company "Lockheed Martin", it was possible to find "unconventional ways" to solve this problem in relation to the SSBN type "Ohio". After the combat mission was completed, the UAV was to return to the area where the submarine was located and “dive” under water. Inside the boat, the apparatus was supposed to be prepared for a new flight, filled with fuel and equipped with weapons of destruction. However, these projects, colorful in the pages of aviation magazines, were far from practical implementation. The work on the implementation of much more pragmatic plans came out on top ...
Based on the scientific and technical backlog obtained during the implementation of the UNSA program, the company Northrop Grumman (who had vast experience in creating deck aircraft) joined the research on the formation of the technical appearance of UCAV-N ship-based UAVs. For the naval fleet The concept of an inconspicuous apparatus designed according to the “flying wing” scheme with swept consoles of relatively large elongation devoid of vertical plumage was proposed (such a layout resembled the layout of the strategic bomber Northrop Grumman V 2A Spirit). An air intake with a "sawtooth" shell was located above the bow of the airframe. The engine was located in the central part of the fuselage (gas flow was output to the “inconspicuous” nozzle device through a special pipe). Two armament compartments were formed on both sides of the motor compartment, capable of accommodating a combat load of up to 900 kg in total weight (in particular, two JDAM type KABs with 450 kg caliber each).
The thrust vector control system of the UAV was missing. Aerodynamic organs included elevons (occupying almost the entire rear edge of the wing) and two pairs of spoilers located on the upper and lower surfaces of the wing end sections.
It should be said that the studies were quite intensive and large-scale. In particular, it took about 500 pipe-hours to purge UAV models in wind tunnels, and the duration of mathematical modeling work was more than 700 hours. Naturally, much attention was paid to the behavior of the drone in take-off and landing modes at speeds up to 280 km / h in the field of influence of aerodynamic disturbances generated by the aircraft carrier.
For practical study of the specifics of the deck drone, the company decided to build an experimental X-47A Pegasus aircraft. A relatively small UAV was created by Northrop Grumman on an initiative basis at its own expense. The company Scaled Composites (chief designer - Elbert Rutan) was recruited to work on the X 47A program, in the short term it designed and built the experimental apparatus. Then the X-47A glider was transported to the Northrop Grumman aircraft factory in El Segundo (California), where it was completed and retrofitted with airborne equipment.
The official rollout of the X-47A UAV took place on July 30 2001 at Mojave Air Force Base (California), and the first flight was made in February 2003 of the year. During the tests of the UAV in the test center of the US Navy, "Chayne Lake" (California), the landing and landing modes of the aircraft carrier were investigated (with simulated work of an aerofinisher). In addition, the work of the onboard aircraft control system, created by VAE Systems and including a satellite navigation channel, as well as a new generation of radio navigation equipment, designed to provide an approach to the deck of the ship, was evaluated.
The X-47A UAV was designed according to the “tailless” scheme. He had a pronounced integral aerodynamic layout with a delta wing of small elongation. Vertical plumage was absent. There were two small cargo compartments for weapons. The take-off weight of the UAV was 1740 kg. The device was equipped with a Pratt Whitney turbofan (Canada) JT15D-5C (1х730 kgf).
The next step of the Northrop Grumman company on the way of developing an unmanned combat aircraft for the fleet was work on a larger and somewhat different layout (in particular, vertical tail) of the X-47B UAV, which could already be considered as a prototype of a “full-fledged” combat unmanned aircraft UCAV-N.
Initially, the X-47B was designed to accommodate up to 1800 kg of weapons on the internal suspension assemblies, and the supply of fuel on board the aircraft was to ensure that the aircraft could be continuously in the air for 12 hours. At the same time, the device was quite compact: the wingspan was only 8,5 m.
X-47B manufacturing work was started in January 2001. It was planned that the first flight of this UAV will take place at the beginning of 2004 of the year at the Patuxent River (Maryland) US Naval Flight Test Center. During the tests, the device had to solve the main task: to confirm the ability of the drone to be operated on a real aircraft carrier together with manned deck aircraft. One of the important links of the test program was to be a practical confirmation of the possibility of the UAV freeing the landing area of the ship’s flight deck 45 seconds after it was touched.
The X-47В project had a fundamentally different appearance in comparison with the X-47А demonstration device. The enlarged diamond shape of the drone body was supplemented with wing end consoles, which provided improved aerodynamic qualities.
Of particular importance in the development of the device when it acquired the choice of options for the power plant. On the experimental samples of the drone, the Northrop Grumman company intended to use the FXTUMX Pratt & Whitney engine without a front-wheel drive version with the 100-5000 kgf engine. Several alternatives were considered for the future: engines of General Electric, Pratt & Whitney Canada, Rolls-Royce Allison. In particular, Pratt & Whitney Canada offered the PW6000 TRD developed for the Raytheon Hauker business class airplane. However, on the serial version it was planned to install a military version of one of the promising civilian engines with a sufficiently high degree of bypass. This could be, in particular, the variant of the turbofan engines PW308 or PW6000. Only with the use of such engines will be able, as the developers believed, to fulfill the requirements for the range and duration of the flight. At the same time, the requirements for speed and maneuverability of the X-800В were somewhat lower than for the combat UAV for the US Air Force.
The X-47В armament, located in two cargo sections, included two 900 kilogram or twelve 120 kilogram corrected aerial bombs like JDAM. In addition to the means of destruction, the EW equipment or reconnaissance equipment, as well as the outboard fuel tank on the 2270L, could be stirred on the internal suspension of the UAV, which allowed using the X-47В as a prototype of the first unmanned tanker aircraft.
It was assumed that the unit UCAV-N (together with manned aircraft A / F-18E / F, F-35C and E-2D) will be one of the key components of the aviation wing of a promising atomic multi-purpose aircraft carrier CVN-X. It was planned that the take-off (and in the long run and landing) of the aircraft on this ship would have to be carried out by means of electromagnetic devices, replacing the traditional steam catapults, and subsequently cable arresting gear.
Work on the program UCAV-N coordinated agency DARPA. In addition to the company "Northrop Grumman" on a competitive basis in them participated and the company "Boeing". The open press provided very scant information about the project of the deck combat UAV of this company, known as X-46. Communicated only that he apparently resembled a slightly reduced bomber "Northrop Grumman" in 2. The Boeing UCAV-N unmanned combat aircraft was significantly superior in size and range in summer to the combat aircraft of the Boeing X-45 (UCAV) created for the US Air Force.
It was planned that in December 2001 the agency DARPA in the framework of the second stage of work on the creation of UCAV-N UAVs will conclude contracts worth 70 80 million for the construction and conduct of flight tests of pilot demonstration unmanned combat aircraft. Tests of unmanned combat aircraft aboard the aircraft carrier were to be carried out in the framework of the third stage of the program. At the same time, it was planned that a UAV suitable for real use as part of an aircraft carrier's wing would be created as early as 2008 2010.
After some delay, apparently due to financial reasons, work on the X-47В program began in May of the 2003 year. It was planned to build two experimental apparatus. However, it was soon decided to close the N-UCAS program. As a result, X-47В became one of two participants in the joint program of the US Department of Defense J-UCAS (Joint Unmanned Combat Air System), suggesting the creation on a competitive basis of a prototype combat drone for use both in the air force and in the navy.
Testing models of modified (in accordance with the new requirements) X-47В UAV in a wind tunnel began in September 2004. A total of 750 purging was performed. And the work on the integration of the on-board systems of the apparatus of the Northrop Grumman division in San Diego was launched on October 15 of the year 2004.
As part of the J-UCAS program, DARPA planned to conclude a contract with Northrop Grumman for August 2006 for 1 billion, providing for the delivery of two flight demonstration UAVs X-47В, as well as ground control stations and related equipment. It was planned that it would be possible to fully agree on uniform requirements for promising unmanned aircraft complexes for the Air Force and the US Navy by September 2009.
The manufacture of the forward fuselage of the first X-47 UAV began in June 2005. The final assembly of the apparatuses was to be carried out at the Northrop Grumman plant in Palmdale (California). However, in February 2006, the J-UCAS program was closed. The reasons for this, apparently, were several. One of them, most likely, consisted in the fact that the Air Force, having decided with the help of the X-45A program, the principal task of confirming the technical feasibility of creating a combat UAV, were not prepared either materially or “ideologically” to proceed to the next stage — the development of a full-fledged combat not demonstration) unmanned complex. It was necessary to “tighten up the rear”: to work out the tactical and organizational issues of using the UAV, to create the appropriate “unmanned” weapon and avionics, to solve many other major issues prior to the deployment of large-scale work on the creation of a fundamentally new type of weapon. All this required money, time, and most importantly - a clear understanding of the ultimate goals (which at that time, apparently, was not yet). All this, obviously, caused the Air Force to refuse to participate in the J-UCAS program (reports appeared in the media that the funds originally pledged under the “unmanned program” were transferred to create a promising strategic bomber).
The seafarers found themselves in a fundamentally different situation: they only had to solve the key issue of “martial combat dronelessness” - to prove in practice the ability of the UAV to work from the deck of an aircraft carrier. That is why almost immediately after the termination of the J-UCAS program (“the king is dead - long live the king!”), The implementation of the purely marine program UCAS-D, which is actually the “reincarnation” of UCAV-N, began. The goal of the program was to demonstrate the possibility of system integration of a UAV with an aircraft carrier. In the Navy, this was considered "a step of key importance towards meeting F / A-XX" - a deck-based shock platform of a new generation. The duration of the program was to be six years, and the cost - 636 million.
Probably, there is one more weighty reason, which determines the increased interest of the US Navy in the program of a combat carrier-based unmanned aircraft. In the media, it was reported that at a summit in UCAV-2007 in London, one of the top managers of Northrop Grumman announced: "We have provided our Navy with the opportunity to regain the role of a long arm in the Pacific." This should be understood as follows: Northrop Grumman and its curators at the headquarters of the United States Navy concluded that it is possible to create a real combat drone model based on the X-47 demonstration aircraft being developed and having the same combat load as the decked manned aircraft F-35C aircraft, twice the range and a higher level of combat survivability.
All of this looks particularly relevant in the event of possible actions by the US Navy aircraft carriers against China, whose development of naval forces and aviation in recent years has noticeably alienated the deployment areas of American aircraft carrier groups from the Asian coast and, therefore, reduced the impact capabilities of American carrier-based aircraft. At the same time, American aircraft carrier groups equipped with combat unmanned complexes should receive opportunities not previously seen for US naval aviation to hit targets not only in the eastern part of China, but practically throughout the entire territory of this country.
According to the representative of Northrop Grumman, mentioned above, “in this case, it’s already not starting to create a new combat system, but about an unprecedented increase in American combat power.”
The talk about the “long arm of the US Navy” is also not accidental because the American fleet after deactivating Gumman A 1990E Intruder and Vouth A-6E Corsair II after the decommissioning of the deck attack aircraft, as well as the closure of the promising programs of McDonnell Douglas / General Dynamix A7 “Evanjer II” and Grumman A-12G have already lost such a “hand” (all the above-mentioned aircraft had a combat radius of order 6-1500 km). As a result, American aircraft carriers remained with the Boeing F / A-1800E / F multipurpose Super Hornet (combat radius - 18 km) and with the prospect of receiving F-900С after 2015, with a radius of 35 km. Under current conditions, the possibility of more than double the reach of US carrier-based aviation, achieved by adopting a UAV, has proved most opportune.
In support of the program of combat shipless drones in the United States expressed, in particular, the famous American military analyst Barry Watts (Barry Watts), a former combat pilot of the US Air Force, then head of software analysis and evaluation of the Pentagon, and now an employee of the Washington Center for Strategic and Financial Research . In 2009, he published an article, according to which only half of the previously planned number of F-type 35 (JSF) fighters would be delivered to the Ministry of Defense. According to Watts, “history itself testifies against F 35: the total number of projected purchases by the US DoD of unobtrusive combat aircraft for four other programs - F117, А12, В 2 and F 22 - was to make 2378 units according to the original plans, and it was only 267” . Current US Department of Defense plans now include the acquisition of a total of X-NUMX F-2443A, F-35B and F-35C aircraft. “However, I think that only half of this number of fighters will be actually purchased,” says B. Watts.
According to the American expert, the US Navy will also inevitably have to reconsider the volume of purchases of these fighters in the direction of a significant reduction, since the combat radius of the Lightning II (1200 km) does not allow US aircraft carriers equipped with F-35C to operate out of reach of coastal assets defeat of China. It is argued that the PRC is on the verge of creating fundamentally new weapons - anti-ship ballistic missiles with a range of up to 1200 km, the appearance of which will leave American aircraft carriers capable of hitting targets at the maximum range of all 900 1200 km, with little chance of surviving in the waters washing China . In the developing conditions, according to B. Watts, a more rational solution for the Navy would not be the purchase of super-expensive and insufficiently efficient manned fighter aircraft, but the earliest possible equipping of American aircraft carriers with unmanned attack aircraft systems having a much larger radius of action than the F-35C.
It should be said that the new “miracle weapon” (anti-ship BR) has been developed in our country since 1960 and even for some time was in trial operation in the Soviet Navy. However, its deployment in the Russian fleet has not yet begun. This indicates the complexity of the scientific and technical problems facing its creators and the “price of the issue”, which turned out to be “very heavy” even for a much more powerful than the Chinese, domestic military-industrial complex. Therefore, it would be naive to believe that in China, even using the tried-and-true Soviet 30 technical solutions of the previous years, they will be able to achieve a “final solution” to the problems of American aircraft carriers in their coastal waters in the foreseeable future (most likely, this will happen not earlier than such a weapon will appear in Russia). However, the mention of the still non-existent anti-ship ballistic missiles as an argument in favor of the combat carrier-based drone drone indicates a long-range aim of the UAV supporters and their awareness of the inevitability of collisions with apologists of manned deck aircraft. Opponents of the upcoming fight gradually began to personify: on the one hand, Northrop Grumman (unmanned power), on the other, Lockheed Martin (traditional deck-based aviation). The position of "Boeing" is difficult to determine.
According to the company’s representatives, “we (i.e., Northrop Grumman) have been working on this topic (unmanned decked combat aircraft) for seven years .... More than 800 million were invested in J-UCAS, and the company always directed this project to side of the real needs of the fleet. "
As part of the new, this time autonomous naval project, the implementation of which unfolded almost immediately after the decision to terminate J-UCAS and called UCAS-D (Unmanned Combat Air System Demonstrator), Northrop Grumman continued its construction at its Palmdale plant two X-47B (AV 1 and AV 2), started as part of the previous program. UAVs, adapted to the requirements of UCAS-D, are intended primarily for practical confirmation of the ability to operate the UAV from the deck of an aircraft carrier.
Rolling out the first X-47 took place 16 December 2008 of the year. It was originally intended to “compress” the machine during the strength tests, and then, at the end of 2009, to transfer it to flight tests (the first flight was scheduled for November). At the same time, the company intended to start the assembly of AV 2 after the first high-speed AV 1 rolls. However, in the future the pace of work slowed down a lot. After a pause (when there was no new information on X-47B) it was announced that AV 2010 was finally transported to Edwards (California) Air Force Base in July 1, and the US Navy's first flight X- 2010В AV 47 is postponed at least until December 1 of this year. The Northrop Grumman firm stated that the delay in the launch of the X-12В flights was caused by the inconsistency of the software of the drone and the aircraft carrier.
At the Edwards airbase, the first stage of flight tests is expected to be carried out at the field of those UAVs at low and medium speeds. A program of "workers" of experimental flights from the deck of an aircraft carrier is scheduled to begin in 2011 or 2012, and be completed in 2013. To participate in it is supposed to attract the atomic multi-purpose aircraft carrier CVN 75 Harry S. Truman (the eighth in a row "Neither Mitz", was commissioned in the 1998 year). It should be said that originally the first landing on the deck of the aircraft was planned to coincide with the “round date” - the celebration of the centenary of the first landing of the manned aircraft on the deck of a warship (pilot 18 January 1911, pilot Eugene Eli put his Curtiss Model D on board the cruiser Pennsylvania"). “On the day when we“ catch the cable, ”naval aviation will change forever,” said UCAS-D program manager at Northrop Grumman, Scott Winship. However, today's realities, according to some experts, practically exclude the possibility of landing a UAV on an aircraft carrier until the end of 2011.
Under current conditions, the Navy made a somewhat belated decision to involve a manned aircraft-flying laboratory, based on the Boeing F / A-18 fighter, to work out the automatic landing system on the ship. According to Captain (captain of the 1 rank) M. Depp (Martin Deppe), who heads the program for creating combat UAVs of the US Navy, this solution will allow you to work on the LL control system and software designed for use on X-47В even before this drone performs first landing and taking off from an aircraft carrier.
According to M. Depp, tests of the F / A-18 in the unmanned version when flying from the deck of an aircraft carrier will have a lesser degree of technical risk than flying X-47В, “since the UAV layout was made in accordance with the requirements of stealth and has a number of features, able to complicate the test. " At the same time, the LL on the basis of the Hornet fighter has a traditional layout, well developed and scientifically in the context of maneuvering on takeoff and landing modes in the immediate vicinity of the aircraft carrier.
Flying the F / A18 flying laboratory from the deck of an aircraft carrier should be conducted in a completely unmanned mode, but an observer pilot will still be on board the aircraft, who will be able to intervene in the control of the aircraft in the event of unforeseen situations.
The assembly of the second X-47 device by October 2010 of the year was completed by 65%. Rolling out of this aircraft is scheduled for mid 2011 year. Workers' X-47B N2 flights (as well as X-47В N1) are planned to be performed at the Patuxent River, Maryland NAS flight test center, from 2012.
According to S. Winship, “there are three critical technologies for the UCAS-D project, the creation of which we need to complete in the near future: automatic in-flight refueling of the UAV, flight task management and materials created using stealth technology.”
The contractors for Northrop Grumman on the X-47B program are Lockheed Martin (landing hook, control surfaces), Pratt and Whitney (F100 PW 200 engine), GKN Aerospace (fuselage units and composite airframe trim). Other suppliers include GE Aviation Systems, Honeywell, Hamilton Sunstrand, Moog, Goodrich.
Although the UCAS – D program does not formally require this, the X-47B flight demonstration units will be equipped with an air refueling system, as well as having the necessary volumes and mass stock to accommodate the search and sighting equipment and weapons. "Inheritance" from the J-UCAS program, the drone also has an "all-view", as expressed in the firm (i.e., front and rear angles in the course plane), inconspicuous in a wide range of radio waves.
The X-47B has a maximum take-off weight of 20190 kg and a maximum landing weight of 10670 kg. According to the requirements of the fleet, the device must be able to perform eight approaches in bad weather. The UCAS-D program must demonstrate the ability of X-47B to detect and adapt failures on its own, switching to backup and backup systems (to ensure the safety of the device on the aircraft carrier, it will have to face homogeneous and heterogeneous failures in special tests).
According to the simulation of the operations of an aircraft carrier group that has manned and hypothetical unmanned aircraft as part of the aircraft wing, combat systems built on the X-47B base will be able to stay in the designated area 20 times longer than traditional manned deck fighters. If the duration of the flight of a manned ship-based aircraft, limited by the physiological and physical properties of the human body, is a maximum of 10 hours, then the same indicator for the UAV type X-47B (taking into account the possibility of it before refueling in flight) should exceed 50 hours.
As mentioned above, the UCAS-D program is, as it were, an intermediate, transitional stage to a more ambitious and technologically sophisticated UCLASS program (Unmanned Carrier Launched Airborne Surveillance and Strike), whose main goal is to develop a full-fledged, real-world unmanned shock reconnaissance aircraft. ship-based systems. 19 April 2010, the United States Navy announced the issuance of a “request for information”, i.e. official offer to aviation industry enterprises to participate in the program.
It is assumed that the experimental system UCLASS will include four to six UAVs capable of flying 11 - 14 hours without refueling in the air. In this case, the target load of the apparatus will consist of reconnaissance-sighting sensors and aircraft weapons. The UAV is required to have the ability to use weapons autonomously, but the operator must still authorize the first strike on the target.
Distinctive features of the system will be a long range, the ability to refuel in flight, increased mass and variety of combat load. The main idea of the UCLASS program is, finally, to give the American carrier fleet a “really long arm,” capable, at least for the medium term, to retain the role of strategic force for the US Navy’s aircraft carrier groups. If successful, the Navy demonstration program plan to procure up to 70 UCLASS.
It was reported that the pre-production UCLASS system should be ready for pilot deployment aboard the aircraft carrier approximately by the end of 2018, and the first “combat” squadron of unmanned deck aircraft would be formed in 2025, while the UAV would be based on American aircraft carriers along with manned multi-purpose years of the F-35 type.
The requirements of the Navy for the UCLASS system (primarily for aircraft) are largely based on the characteristics of the X-47В deck UAV. However, this does not mean that the choice of X-47В as a prototype of the first deck drone is already predetermined: in addition to Northrop Grumman, which offers the fleet to further develop the 47 go line, a request for proposals for a new unmanned complex was addressed to Boeing that built the demonstrator of the technology of the unmanned deck vehicle "Phantom Ray", and the company "General Atomix" having the Avenger UAV, which also (albeit only on paper) has a marine modification.
It is interesting to note that at the International Symposium of the North American Association for Unmanned Systems, held in San Diego, California, 2008, the results of an interdepartmental analytical study were made public, the task of which was to determine the future look of the US Navy aircraft carrier aircraft. The main conclusion of the research authors was that after the 2025 of the year, the Hornet and the Super Hornet multi-purpose manned deck fighters F / A-18, as well as the F-35С unmanned airborne combat complex, should be replaced.
Recently, in the United States, work has also intensified on the search for new aerodynamic configurations for both land and ship-based UAVs. In particular, an important area of research conducted under the auspices of the DARPA agency is the development of the OFW (Oblique Fueying Wing) aerodynamic scheme. With such an arrangement of aircraft, characterized by the absence of tail and static instability, ensuring stability and controllability of the aircraft comes to the fore. In addition to DARPA, Northrop Grumman (the direct developer of the experimental UAV) is participating in the program. It was assumed that by the year 2010 an unmanned aircraft with a wingspan of 18,1 m would be produced, designed to achieve a speed corresponding to M = 1,2 with a field in the mode when the leading edge sweep is 65 degrees. However, information about the actual construction of this device has been reported.
The agency also planned to launch the AMSMA (Adaptive Morphing Super Maneuver Aircraft) program, designed to investigate the layout, providing a combination of high maximum speed and good maneuverability in one aircraft of long range and flight duration with a deep transformation of the aerodynamic configuration of a glider with an oblique wing in flight. The AMSMA program was a logical continuation of earlier research, in which an oblique MFX 2006 experimental UAV was tested at the end of 2.
At the present stage, UAVs are seen by American sailors primarily as a tool for suppressing enemy air defenses, and also as a strike vehicle for hitting land targets with previously known coordinates. That is, they are considered as a providing means, as well as a percussion means, which almost duplicates the ship-to-coastal-type CD The solution of such tasks as direct aviation support, isolation of the battle area, the conquest of air supremacy, etc. they will probably learn very soon.
However, there is another area of combat use of naval combat UAVs, where drones today could effectively compete with piloted ship aviation. We are talking about the fight against large marine targets. It should be said that in our country (and nowhere else!) Highly efficient disposable anti-ship unmanned aerial vehicles (this is how one can classify supersonic heavy anti-ship missiles of operational designation "Basalt", "Granit", "Vulkan" and others created by the Reutov Scientific Research Institute of Mechanical Engineering together with St. Petersburg Central Research Institute "Granit") have existed since the 1960-s. Transferring the on-board “intelligence” implemented on such complexes from a disposable to a reusable unmanned platform obviously should not be an overly complex technical problem. Today, anti-ship weapons of this class (and the scientific and technical school, ensuring its further development) exist only in Russia.