First UAV command center installed on an aircraft carrier

USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70) marked a milestone for the U.S. Navy after installing the first unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) command center aboard an aircraft carrier.

The UAV ready room was installed April 13, 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.

The MQ-XX program will deliver an 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 unmanned aircraft to provide sea-based intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) capability in support of the CSG and the Joint Forces Commander.

According to the U.S. Navy, the MQ-XX is scheduled to be operational in the mid-2020s.

“This marks the start of a phased implementation of the MQ-XX system on an aircraft carrier,” said Capt. Beau Duarte, program manager of Unmanned Carrier Aviation program office. “The lessons learned and ground-breaking work done here will go on to inform and influence future installations on other aircraft carriers.”

Capt. Karl Thomas, Carl Vinson’s commanding officer, said: “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 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.