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Brits Drop FOA in favour of a UCAV solution to replace the Tornado

This is a discussion on Brits Drop FOA in favour of a UCAV solution to replace the Tornado within the Air Force & Aviation forum, part of the Global Defense & Military category; According to AFM the MoD (UK) has stopped its “FOA” project (Future Offensive Aircraft, a strike aircraft to replace the ...

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Old July 15th, 2005   #1
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Brits Drop FOA in favour of a UCAV solution to replace the Tornado

According to AFM the MoD (UK) has stopped its “FOA” project (Future Offensive Aircraft, a strike aircraft to replace the Tornado GR4 fleet in several years time) in favour of an as yet undeveloped UCAV (Unmanned Combat Air Vehicle) platform.

By no small coincidence BAe are known to be building a stealthy UCAV which was previously secret –probably a technology demonstrator project (I speculate). Not a lot is known about it.

Anyone know more about this situation or have any thoughts about the real-world deployability of high performance UCAVs? –(Predator being low performance in this context).

For what it is worth Germany and Singapore are also developing stealthy UCAVs….
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Old July 15th, 2005   #2
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Re: Brits Drop FOA in favour of a UCAV solution to replace the Tornado

I,m not replying directly to your post as such but as a layman I reckon that the 5th generation ac such as F22 & F35 are the last manned aircraft of importance to be developed.
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Old July 15th, 2005   #3
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Re: Brits Drop FOA in favour of a UCAV solution to replace the Tornado

As Far as I am aware the UCAV was or is not a BAE project. Ucav is the Next Gen stealth Orientated, Unmanned Combat Air vehicle. It is a well known fact the US is developing it (It is believed that Clever Autonomous AI driven solutions would automate basic flight, And would allow the pilot AKA ground Operator to mange missions for multiple fighters at any given time hence a force multiplier). And if MOD UK has dropped the FOA it might be for a good reason. From my where I stand, this makes more sense since the FOA seemed more complex, Expensive and extensive. The UCav can Provide part of the Functionality that the FOAS project requires.

The objective of the joint DARPA/Air Force Unmanned Combat Air Vehicle (UCAV) Advanced Technology Demonstration (ATD) program is to demonstrate the technical feasibility for a UCAV system to effectively and affordably prosecute 21st century lethal strike missions within the emerging global command and control architecture. The operational UCAV system is envisioned as a force enabler that will conduct Suppression of Enemy Air Defense (SEAD) and strike missions in support of post-2010 manned strike packages. This SEAD/Strike mission will be the first instantiation of an UCAV vision that will evolve into a broader range of combat missions as the concept and technologies mature, and the UCAV affordability potential is realized. http://www.fas.org/man/dod-101/sys/ac/ucav.htm


The Boeing Joint Unmanned Combat Air System X-45 is an unmanned combat air vehicle being developed for strike missions such as Suppression of Enemy Air Defence (SEAD), electronic warfare and associated operations.

The Joint Unmanned Combat Air System (J-UCAS) is being managed by DARPA, the US Navy and the US Air Force. The two principle systems being developed under the first phase of the program, the Spiral 0 phase, are the Boeing X-45 and the Northrop Grumman X-47. The J-UCAS program combines the programs previously conducted under the DARPA, USAF and Boeing X-45 UCAV program and the DARPA, USN and Northrop Grumman X-47 UCAV-N program.

In March 2004, the X-45A completed a ten-day schedule of test flights including dropping a 250lb inert Small Smart Bomb (SSB) at NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center, Edwards Air Force Base, California. The X-45A air vehicle released the unguided weapon from its internal weapon bay at an altitude of 35,000ft and speed Mach 0.67 (about 442mph). In August 2004, the first test of multi-vehicle operations took place. Two X-45A demonstrators were controlled by a single operator / pilot. The next scheduled set of test flights includes the release of a precision-guided weapon that will attack a target. The first flight of the larger X-45C will be in early 2007.


In 1999 Boeing was awarded a demonstration phase contract by DARPA and the USAF. Under the contract, Boeing Phantom Works completed two X-45A demonstrator air vehicles. The roll out ceremony of the first vehicle was in September 2001. The first flight was completed in May 2002.

Boeing Company in Seattle is the principle contractor responsible for the X-45 program and is also responsible for the provision and implementation of the mission control aspects of the program. Boeing in St Louis is responsible for the development of the air vehicle

A series of Block 1 tests on both X-45A vehicles, including timing and positional navigation trials, autonomous taxiing and the integration of ground mission control elements, was completed in February 2003.

Block 2 testing, which began in March 2003, included integration of the unmanned vehicles with manned aircraft. By March 2004 the Block 2 software build was completed and the first flight tests of the Block 2 software were successfully completed. Block 3 testing includes mission replanning during flight, station keeping manoeuvres and the simulated deployment and dropping of inert weapons. Block 4 testing, scheduled for completion in 2005, includes the transfer of decision making to the air from the ground based control station.


The X-45A air vehicle is of a swept wing stealthy design and composite construction using foam matrix core and a composite fibre reinforced epoxy skin, with a wingspan of 10.31m and overall length 8.03m. There is no vertical or canted tail. The low mounted wing and blended fuselage has a straight leading edge and W planform trailing edge.

The fuselage carries two internally housed weapons bays and an internally mounted Honeywell F124-GA-100 non-afterburning turbofan engine. The engine, rated at 28kN, is equipped with a notched air intake and a two dimensionally yaw-vectoring nozzle exhaust. The fuel load is 1,220kg.

The vehicle carries a payload of 680kg. The air vehicle incorporates underwing hardpoints for carrying auxiliary fuel tanks for increased range or increased time on station or for additional weapon carrying capacity.

The air vehicle is fitted with fully retractable tricycle landing gear for conventional autonomous take-off and landings.

The air vehicle is capable of operating at an altitude of 10,670m (35,000ft) and has a cruise speed of Mach 0.75.

The X-45 is air transportable to forward areas of operation. The wings are detachable from the fuselage so the air vehicle can be stored and transported in a storage container. A single C-17 Globemaster can carry up to six X-45A containerised UCAVS.


Boeing planned the development and construction of two UCAV prototype air vehicles, X-45B, a larger air vehicle than the X-45A with an integrated avionics system, increased weapon delivery capacity and increased operating range and altitude. A fully operational version of the prototype X-45B was designated A-45, for entry into service with the USAF in 2008 but the X-45B program was superseded by the Joint-UCAS program and the development of the X-45C.

In June 2003 DARPA announced the Joint Unmanned Combat Air Systems (J-UCAS) program which combined the DARPA/USAF UCAV and the DARPA/USN UCAV-N programs. In early 2003, DARPA announced the cancellation of the X-45B and the approval for the development of a larger and improved UCAV system, comprising the X-45C air vehicle, mission control, support and simulation systems.

The X-45C has a larger payload performance (2,041kg), persistence and range envelope than the X-45B. The X-45C has a similar fuselage design to that of the X-45B but with a new wing design that gives the X-45C its distinctive arrowhead shaped profile. Boeing began assembly of the first of three X-45C demonstrators in June 2004 and first flight will be in early 2007, to be followed by a two-year operational assessment.


The air vehicle can carry advanced precision guided munitions, 2,000lb bombs or other munitions and weapons systems.


The X-45 air vehicle is equipped with a suite of sensors including an active electronically scanned array (AESA) synthetic aperture radar (SAR) and an electronic support measures system developed by Raytheon. The Raytheon synthetic aperture radar provides a resolution of 60cm at a target range of 80km.


The sensor suite allows detection, identification and location of fixed and mobile targets in near real-time. The battlefield situation and target data is downloaded via secure datalinks to the ground control operator station, to aircraft or to satellite datalinks. The operator station is equipped with artificial intelligence decision aids to assist the operator in the assessment of the battlefield situation and in his decision to authorise UCAV weapons release.

The taxiing, take-off and landing are fully autonomous but a pilot-operator has the option of controlling these manoeuvres. The UCAV Ground Control Station has been designed by NASA. BAE Systems Controls has been contracted to supply the computerised air vehicle management system. The air vehicle is fitted with a Milstar satellite communications link.http://www.airforce-technology.com/projects/x-45-ucav/

The UCAV is not a british project but like all American Hardware that Ends up with us ends up being jointly developed for future improvements. Most of Projects are directly funded by the US.

My understanding is that we (UK)when compared to the US, see the UAVs differently. I mean we all know what UAV provide. Extended cheaper Surveillance limited Ordinance delivery (at present). The UK fundamentally believes that we can utilize the UAV for long range precision strikes ie get rid of the chuck of expensive arsenal manned hardware and to utilize Newer UAV to conduct the missions without loss of capability. The US has more of realistic goal they would like to see the UCAV or any-other UAV as extensions to there current capabilities. The USAF would rather have the Ucav performs the SEAD, Recon and the theater prep roles in wars as most of these missions are either very dangerous where loss of assets would be too great or the task is considered too tedious and time consuming.

Last edited by adsH; July 15th, 2005 at 07:46 PM.
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Old July 18th, 2005   #4
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Re: Brits Drop FOA in favour of a UCAV solution to replace the Tornado

Just wanted to correct my self, the UK MOD has rulled out participation in the next Manned european Platfrom, and has chosen to partern up with DARPA, DSTL would conduct advance Capability research, so i guess we're moving towards American solutions and partnering with them in development and production.
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