US Congress Freezes Funds for UCLASS Programme

Congress will freeze development dollars for the Navy’s new unmanned, carrier-based aircraft until the sea service and DoD provide Capitol Hill with information on the requirements development, acquisition strategies and possible alternatives tied to those programmes, according to a House version of the Fiscal Year 2012 Defence Bill.

Adopted on May 11 as an amendment to the House Armed Services Committee’s draft of the FY ’12 defence authorization bill, the legislation will limit the Navy to spending “not more than 15 percent” of the total appropriated dollars for the carrier-based aircraft until that information is sent to Congress.

Currently, the Navy is pursuing development of an Unmanned Carrier-Based Surveillance and Strike System (UCLASS), conducting a successful first at Edwards AFB, Calif., earlier this year. Service officials are continuing testing and development of the system at Naval Air Station Patuxent River in Maryland.

Sponsored by Rep Todd Akin (R-Mo.), the legislation requires the head of the Joint Staff’s Joint Requirements Oversight Council (JROC) to validate the “capability gap” that the Navy-led programme fills and that the JROC has approved a subsequent capability and development document (CDD) for the programme. The head of the JROC is Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Marine Gen. James Cartwright.

In addition to that requirements information, House members also want DoD acquisition chief Ashton Carter to certify that the Navy has explored all possible platform options for the UCLASS effort via an analysis of alternatives.

Lawmakers also want Carter’s office to ensure the potential acquisition strategy for a UCLASS aircraft includes a “fair and open competitive strategy” while verifying that strategy is achievable and “presents medium or less risk.”

The Navy has yet to issue a formal request for proposals on the UCLASS programme, only submitting a request for information on the UCLASS key requirements last March.

Navy acquisition chief Sean Stackley must report to Congress the service’s UCLASS plan that delineates the “threshold and objective” goals for key performance parameters for the aircraft’s weapons and intelligence payloads, electronic warfare and stealth capabilities, communications equipment and overall survivability and affordability of the programme, according to the amendment.

Moreover, Stackley’s office must also and certify those goals are achievable, while ensuring that the eventual UCLASS platform will be interoperable with other Navy systems, as well as other “joint-service unmanned aerial systems and mission control stations,” according to the amendment.

House panel members unanimously approved the Akin amendment via a voice vote.

Source: Defence Daily

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