SAN DIEGO, April 21 (UPI) -- The U.S. Navy reports that it has installed the first command center for unmanned aerial vehicles aboard an aircraft carrier.
The carrier is the USS Carl Vinson, which is currently in San Diego, Calif.
"This marks the start of a phased implementation of the MQ-XX system on an aircraft carrier," said Capt. Beau Duarte, program manager of the Unmanned Carrier Aviation program office Duarte. "The lessons learned and ground-breaking work done here will go on to inform and influence future installations on other aircraft carriers."
"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 is to deliver a high-endurance unmanned aircraft that will replace today's F/A-18E/F aircraft in the role as the aerial tanker for the Navy's carrier air wing, and will preserve the strike fighter's flight hours for its primary mission.
The Navy said 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.
ISR is the acronym for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance.
The MQ-XX is scheduled to be operational in the mid-2020s.