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Sophisticated drone prototypes will face off in what could be a multi-billion-dollar
competition to shape the future of air warfare. Lockheed Martin is developing
the Sea Ghost jet-powered killer drone. Along with previously disclosed
unmanned aerial vehicle designs from rivals Boeing, Northrop Grumman and
General Atomics, the Sea Ghost will go head-to-head for a Navy contract to put
fast, stealthy, missile- and bomb-armed drones on the decks of aircraft carriers by 2018.



The Air Force is considering buying whichever UAV the Navy picks for the  Unamnned Carrier-Launched Airborne Surveillance and Strike requirement. The UCLASS competition winner could
dominate the pilotless warplane business for a generation. The Sea Ghost, in development for several years, is a tailless flying wing — similar to a miniature B-2 stealth bomber. The Lockheed Sea Ghost leverages experience with the RQ-170 Sentinel Unmanned Aircraft System, the Joint Strike Fighter F-35C and other Navy program technologies. The Sea Ghost has radar-evading qualities but is potentially difficult to control in flight, as it lacks the vertical stabilizers most planes possess. The Sea Ghost shares engineering components with the Boeing & Northrop’s UCLASS contestants, both of which boast roughly 50-foot wingspans. Boeing has flown the latest version of the X-45 drone w/ design roots stretching into the 1990s. Most observers expect Boeing to tweak
the X-45C with tougher landing gear and other special modifications for carrier ops.




Northrop is testing X-47B copies, another flying-wing design and a rough contemporary of the X-45 under a Navy demonstration contract. And will perform the carrier
launches of a jet-powered drone. The General Atomics Sea Avenger is an advanced
version of the MQ-9 Reaper as an outlier with its Sea Avenger, but with a jet
engine in place of the Reaper propeller. The Sea Avenger has swept wings and
vertical tails, just like today’s manned, carrier-based fighters. The Sea Ghost
could share water-resistance stealth coatings w/ F-35Cs and other
radar-defeating techs such as special antennas The Sea Ghost connection to the
marginally-stealthy RQ-170 is promoted by Lockheed.




 


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