US Navy’s Unmanned Carrier-Launched Airborne Surveillance and Strike (UCLASS) system has been delayed due to an ongoing debate about the primary role of the drone, the US Governmental Accountability Office (GAO) said in a report on Monday.
"Ongoing debate about whether the primary role of the UCLASS system should be mainly surveillance with limited strike or mainly strike with limited surveillance has delayed the program," GAO report said.
"Requirements emphasizing a strike role with limited surveillance could be more demanding and costly."
The US Navy expects to have invested at least $3 billion through fiscal year 2020 in the development of the UCLASS system, which includes air system, aircraft carrier, and control system and connectivity segments. It is expected to enhance the intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance, targeting, and strike capabilities of the Navy's aircraft carrier fleet.
In August 2013, the Navy awarded contracts worth $15 million each to four competing contractors to develop and deliver preliminary designs for the air system, which were assessed by the Navy in May 2014. The next anticipated steps for the program will be to solicit proposals and award the contract for air system development.
GAO has recommended that before committing significant resources the Navy should ensure that it has an executable business case for UCLASS development that matches available resources to required capabilities. On behalf of DOD, the Navy generally agreed with the recommendation.