General Atomics Says It’s Well-Positioned as Low-Risk Option for Carrier Drone Competition
By RICHARD R. BURGESS, Managing Editor
ARLINGTON, Va. — General Atomics (GA) has never built a tailhook aircraft for the Navy but that is not stopping it from competing with the Boeings, Lockheed Martins and Northrop Grummans of the world to design the MQ-25A Stingray aerial refueling unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) for operation from aircraft carriers.
Doug Hardison, director of Marine Corps and Navy business development for GA, told Seapower his company’s leadership in fielding unmanned combat aircraft enables it to approach the problem in a different way from other companies.
The company’s proposed Sea Avenger unmanned aerial vehicle is “a natural,” said Chuck Wright, director of GA’s MQ-25A program, noting that the winged-body Sea Avenger can carry a lot of fuel, has low drag and features a large amount of space, weight and power available for payloads.
Carrier suitability will be the biggest challenge for GA in the competition, said Wright, a former Navy carrier pilot.
“We’ve retained the core of the team that started in 2011. Key engineer leads have been in the program for five to seven years,” he said.
Hardison, a former Marine Corps helicopter pilot, pointed out that GA’s work on the Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System and Advanced Arresting Gear programs has given the company a lot of insight into carrier operations.
“We’re in a position now to be a low-risk option,” Wright said. “No one else builds armed UAVs. We’re the industry lead.”
The Navy’s request for proposals for the MQ-25A is expected to be released this summer.
“We’re bore-sighted on the requirement,” Wright said. “The Navy is serious about changing how they do business.”