Capt. Beau Duarte, program manager of Unmanned Carrier Aviation program office (PMA-268), inspected the site and recognized Carl Vinson Sailors instrumental in the security, logistics and installation of the UAV suite.
"This marks the start of a phased implementation of the MQ-XX system on an aircraft carrier," said Duarte. "The lessons learned and ground-breaking work done here will go on to inform and influence future installations on other aircraft carriers."
The Navy is also sticking to its plans to field an unmanned MQ-XX Stingray platform with just tanking and surveillance capabilities to start with, while the Marine Corps is experimenting with the MQ-8C Fire Scout to help inform its path forward for amphibious assault ship-based unmanned aviation, officials said Wednesday.
The MQ-XX, formerly known as the Carrier Based Aerial Refueling System, will only include tanking and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) as primary missions.
The drone on carrier work was performed during USS Carl Vinson's recent Chief of Naval Operations Planned Incremental Availability (PIA). The completion of all phases of installation is scheduled for 2022.
"We are carving out precious real estate on board the carrier, knowing that the carrier of the future will have manned and unmanned systems on it," said Capt. Karl Thomas, Carl Vinson's commanding officer. "This suite is an incremental step necessary to extend performance, efficiency and enhance safety of aerial refueling and reconnaissance missions that are expending valuable flight hours on our strike-fighter aircraft, the F/A-18 Echoes and Foxtrots."
The MQ-XX program will deliver a high-endurance unmanned aircraft that will replace today's F/A-18E/F aircraft in its role as the aerial tanker for the Navy's carrier air wing (CVW), thus preserving the strike fighter's flight hours for its primary mission. It will also leverage the range and payload capacity of high-endurance unmanned aircraft to provide critically needed, persistent, sea-based ISR capability in support of the CSG and the Joint Forces Commander. The MQ-XX is scheduled to be operational in the mid-2020s.
"Having a UAV asset that provides persistent, potentially 24/7, surveillance coverage for the strike group is a game changer," said Commander, Carrier Strike Group (CSG) 1, Rear Adm. James Loeblein. "Putting additional ISR capacity into the warfare commander's hands increases the flexibility and warfare capability of the entire strike group."
The Carl Vinson Strike Group is scheduled to deploy on a Western Pacific deployment in 2017. Carl Vinson is currently pierside in its homeport of San Diego.