Posted: September 6, 2017 2:15 PM

Navy Official Optimistic on Unmanned Carrier Aviation

By RICHARD R. BURGESS, Managing Editor

ARLINGTON, Va. — The Navy’s civilian official in charge of unmanned systems said that the Navy will be moving at a faster pace to field unmanned aircraft on aircraft carriers.

“The Navy is committed and will have a platform running on and off a carrier,” Frank Kelley, deputy assistant secretary of the Navy for Unmanned Systems, said Sept. 6 at the 2017 Defense News Conference.

Kelley said the chief of naval operations (CNO), Adm. John Richardson, last month visited the program office for the MQ-25A Stingray unmanned aerial vehicle — intended to operate from carriers and refuel other aircraft in the carrier air wing — to get a detailed look at the program.

The CNO “was pretty pleased with what he saw, and he told them to continue to press,” Kelley said, noting that the CNO talked with the program engineers and other officials at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Md. “I consider that to be a commitment on the Navy’s part to continue on with the MQ-25 program as it exists today.

“The MQ-25 is one of those programs that is in [the] CNO’s crosshairs for an accelerated acquisition process,” he said.

Kelley also said that Congress is encouraging the Navy to move faster on unmanned carrier aviation and that “I think you will see us move at a faster pace.”

The Navy is expected to soon release a request for proposals from industry for the MQ-25 design.

Asked by a reporter about the prospects of an unmanned fighter aircraft in the Navy’s future, Kelley said, “That might take a while.”

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