Feb 15, 2014
US Navy’s UCLASS Could Be Air to Air Fighter
The UCLASS, which is primarily being designed for the intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) and strike roles, could be used as a flying missile magazine which could supplement the firepower of the F/A-18E/F and F-35C Joint Strike Fighter in air-to-air combat as a robotic wingman of sorts.
Using an unmanned aircraft such as the UCLASS in an air-to-air role will have some disadvantages too. Air superiority fighters, particularly the Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor and Boeing F-15C Eagle, use a combination of high altitudes and high supersonic speeds to impart the maximum possible launch energy to the AMRAAM to engage targets at extended ranges.
The UCLASS, however, is expected to be subsonic aircraft. As such, it will not be able to impart as much launch energy to the AMRAAM as a Boeing F/A-18 Hornet would—which itself flies at lower speeds and altitudes compared to a genuine air superiority platform like the Eagle.