In Brief: Navy Reviews New UCLASS; Smartphones for Combat Troops; Israel Deal

Mike O'Brien

THE NAVAL Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) is set to issue four firm-fixed-price contracts for Preliminary Design Reviews for the Unmanned Carrier Launched Airborne Surveillance and Strike (UCLASS) Air Vehicle.

The contracts are scheduled to be issued by the summer of 2013, and will involve up to two years of work. The new UCLASS will offer the U.S. Navy unmanned semi-autonomous, carrier-based, intelligence, surveillance, targeting and strike capabilities. The systems to be reviewed include the unmanned aerial vehicle platform, communications and the handling and operation of the vehicle on-board the carrier.

The contracts are expected to be awarded to the Boeing Company, Northrop Grumman Systems Corporation, General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc. and Lockheed Martin. Evaluation of the projects will be in third quarter of FY 2014, reports.

After the review, the Navy will choose a single proposal for full-scale development with plans to field the UCLASS within three to six years.

SOLDIERS THAT are scheduled to deploy to Afghanistan with the First U.S. Army Brigade are to get smartphones to improve front-line communications. The phones will be tethered to a digital radio to mark the locations of roadside bombs, share intelligence, and send text messages, reports. The system gives soldiers patrolling on foot or riding in vehicles a similar level of connectivity as their counterparts back at headquarters.

Col. Mark Elliott, who oversees development of the Army's tactical network, said: "This is just in time for a retrograde mission," he said, referring to the process of removing military equipment from an operating area. "We're pulling cables out of buildings because we're trying to turn the lights out."

The equipment includes smartphones such as the Motorola Atrix running Google Inc.'s Android software; handheld AN/PRC-154 Rifleman Radios; portable AN/PRC-117G Falcon III radios and satellite dishes.

A NEW AGREEMENT to extend annual military aid for through 2027 has been drawn up by President Obama and the Israel government. The pending 10-year military aid package would commit Washington to provide up to $40 billion in additional Foreign Military Financing (FMF) grant assistance to Israel, reports.

It would start at the conclusion of the current 10-year, $30 billion agreement signed in 2007 under President George W. Bush. It would mean Mr. Obama’s successor would be legally bound to continue military aid for Israel.

(Photo: Northrop Grumman)

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