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Navy launches competition for unmanned plane

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The U.S. Navy formally kicked off a competition April 17 to develop and build an unmanned airplane that would operate from an aircraft carrier.

A draft request for proposals (RFP) for the Unmanned Carrier Launched Airborne Surveillance Strike (UCLASS) aircraft was sent to the four aviation companies that are already doing preliminary design work for the program, Navy spokeswoman Jamie Cosgrove said. The companies are Boeing, General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc., Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman. The RFP document was not publicly disclosed.

The draft solicitation will be followed by an industry day in about 30 to 45 days and a final RFP this summer, Cosgrove said. A contract award is expected in mid-fiscal year 2015. The Navy plans to pick one design to build, fly and deploy.

UCLASS is intended to perform intelligence-gathering, targeting and strike missions. To help pave the way for UCLASS, the Navy has conducted flights tests with the X-47B demonstrator, a bat-like, unmanned plane built by Northrop Grumman. The X-47B conducted its first night flight April 10 over Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Md.

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