Navy Leadership Embracing Unmanned Systems for Future Combat


By Vivienne Mach

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. — The Navy is investing in an array of remotely piloted platforms —from tiny quadcopters to gargantuan tanker aircraft — to meet mission needs on land, at sea and in the air, service officials said April 9.

Unmanned technologies are “absolutely intrinsic to how we’re going forward” in the Navy and Marine Corps, said Vice Adm. William Merz, deputy chief of naval operations for warfare systems during a panel discussion at the Navy League’s annual Sea-Air-Space conference in National Harbor, Maryland.

The service’s program to develop the MQ-25 Stingray unmanned carrier-based tanker aircraft is being conducted through the recently established maritime accelerated capabilities office, which speaks to the urgency to get the platform fielded, and also the sophistication of the technology, he said.

“It’s tough technology,” he said. “There are three major elements to that aircraft. One is just flying it, one is communicating with it and one is bringing it back aboard the ship.”

Lockheed Martin, Boeing and General Atomics Aeronautical Systems are vying for the MQ-25 contract, which the Navy expects to award this summer.


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