Valerie Insinna, National Defense, Feb 3
One of the top congressional opponents of the Navy’s carrier-based unmanned aircraft program has seen the service’s new requirements for the platform and he is now supportive of the changes being made.
Rep. Randy Forbes, R-Va., chairman of the House Armed Service seapower and projection forces subcommittee, has long argued that the Unmanned Carrier-Launched Airborne Surveillance and Strike should be a stealthy, highly armed drone with the ability to penetrate non-permissive environments. Initial Navy requirements sought what critics saw as a less ambitious UCLASS that would primarily be used for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance.
Citing the classified nature of the program, Forbes declined to elaborate on the changes the Navy is making to UCLASS requirements. However, "I'm pretty comfortable in the direction that it is [going] now,” he said Feb. 3 during a roundtable discussion with reporters.
His opinions on UCLASS have not always been so supportive. In a July 2014 op-ed in The National Interest, he wrote that the direction of the program did not adequately meet anti-access/area denial challenges.
Forbes said he is generally supportive of the Navy’s newly-released budget, which includes several acquisition and modernization priorities that had been backed in previous years by the House and Senate armed service committees.
"With several of the different things that we [Congress] put on the table, the rightness of that cause was really what ultimately won it,” he said.
The request would fund the refueling and overhaul of the USS George Washington aircraft carrier and the procurement of destroyers, littoral combat ships and an LPD-17 class amphibious ship championed by Congress.
Forbes opposes the Navy’s plan to buy only 100 tactical Tomahawk missiles in 2016 and none over the next four years.
"We launched probably 200 Tomahawks in Libya. It takes 154 ... [to fully load] a guided missile submarine,” he said. “We don't have enough to load one submarine, and it takes about 196 to keep that production line open.”