U.S. Navy is growing one drone at a time

Military Technology
Navy MQ-25

Boeing conducts an MQ-25 deck handling demonstration at its facility in St. Louis. The U.S. Navy intends to procure eight of the carrier-based drones by 2024. (Photo: US Navy / Boeing)

MYSTERY WIRE — The future of warfare is becoming a reality in the U.S. military. In a recent article from Air & Space, the buildup of Navy drones which are able to fly from and back to carriers was explored.

The Navy’s current aircraft carriers do need to be readied for the next generation of unmanned aerial vehicles. To do this, the Navy is installing specialized mini-control centers for drones on its aircraft carriers. This is being done at the same time as many of the carriers are in dock for overhauls and maintenance.

According to Air & Space, Captain Chuck Ehnes, the Navy’s in-service aircraft carrier program manager, said the Unmanned Aviation Warfare Centers are being built into Nimitz- and Ford-class carriers to operate Boeing’s MQ-25 Stingray unmanned aerial tanker and other drones that the Navy might operate from its aircraft carriers in the near future.

Because of the importance of drones and the appetite for more and more of them—and because the ability to control them is changing so quickly—you want a dedicated center so you can condense and streamline the fast-emerging technology.

Kris Osborn, Military analyst who writes online for The National Interest

The timeline for the Navy buying these UAVs is quite short. The Navy is planning to purchase eight MQ-25 Stingrays by 2024. These will be unarmed Stingrays that will have a big impact on military readiness. The flying fuel depots extend the “combat radius” of F/A-18s and F-35Cs, while allowing the carrier to remain out of range of increasingly sophisticated missiles, says Osborn. “If you can have a carrier around 900 miles offshore and it’s still projecting the same kind of attack power, it’s a very big deal,” he says.

A recent study from the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments in Washington, D.C. recommends the creation of an air wing consisting of only 20 piloted aircraft, plus 24 drones equipped for electronic warfare and missile defense.

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