Thursday, October 26, 2017

X-47B will not be the Navy's new UAV...Northrop pulls out of the competition...

via Defense News.
Northrop Grumman will not put forward a bid for the U.S. Navy’s MQ-25 unmanned tanker aircraft, its CEO announced Wednesday.

While the specific reasoning underpinning the decision was not fully explained, it appears the Navy’s final request for proposals — released earlier this month — raised questions among executives who worried that Northrop would be unable to develop a UAV that met specifications and still delivered profit for the company.

“When we’re looking at one of these opportunities, let me be clear: Our objective is not just to win. Winning is great, it feels good on the day of an announcement, but if you can’t really execute on it and deliver on it to your customer and your shareholders, then you’ve done the wrong thing,” Northrop head Wes Bush said during an Oct. 25 earnings call.

“And we’ve worked hard over a long number of years in our company to have great clarity around what our objectives are,” he said. “When you’re entrusted by the U.S. or any one of our allied nations to do something in the defense arena, that’s a bond of trust that you can’t afford to break, and we really look hard at executability under the terms of RFPs that come out to make sure that we can execute.”
Story here. 

Navy aviation is killing itself.  First it had the weird switch to make the UAV into a tanker instead of keeping deep strike and then it wrote a RFP that was so strict that its obvious that there is no profit to even trying for the contract.

I blame this on two things.  The F-35 mafia won and because they did the US Navy is going to be out of the deep strike mission for another couple of generations.  The X-47B as first envisioned would have filled that role nicely.  Call it the second coming of the A-6 but unmanned and stealthy.

The second issue is the RFP.  I'm glad the Pentagon is getting serious about saving the taxpayer money but they're leaving proven capabilities on the table while grasping for lesser ones that will not pay off in a high end fight.

This is terrible news.

Are we heading back to a time when naval jets are undoubtedly inferior to their land based counterparts?

In WW2 that was certainly the case before the F6F and F4U arrived on the scene.  Land based fighter regained their superiority for awhile during the 50's and 60's, but with the arrival of the F-4 Phantom and F-8 Crusader the gap was again negated.  But now?  I like the Super Hornet but in terms of raw power it will never equal the Mighty F-15 or F-22, not to mention the latest Sukhoi or J-20.

A stealthy UAV that could conduct deep strikes, serve as a missile truck, do ISR, serve as a picket for the fleet and finally do the tanker mission would have been a God send.  The Navy instead seems to be emphasizing the tanker mission.

This is a lost opportunity.  I hope leadership knows what its doing.

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