Aerospace and defense manufacturing giant Boeing has been selected to build carrier-launched drones for the U.S. Navy. In a statement, the Navy announced that it had awarded Boeing with a contract to develop a new type of unmanned ariel vehicle (UAV) that can be launched from an aircraft carrier. Of course, UAVs have been used in the U.S. military for decades. Up until now, though, they haven’t been able to take off from or land on an aircraft carrier. That may soon change, however, as Boeing is building the world’s first carrier-launched drone for use in the Navy.
The Navy says that it will pay Boeing a “fixed price” with incentive bonuses and a ceiling price of just over $805 million. The contract specifically calls for the design, manufacturing, testing and delivery of four carrier-launched drones. Known as the MQ-25A, the drones are expected to be operational by 2024.
Why is the Navy interested in building carrier-launched drones? Well, there are a few reasons, one of which is safety. Eliminating the need for human pilots creates a safer environment. If a drone crashes or otherwise fails, no pilots will be harmed. This alone is reason enough for the Navy to seek carrier-launched drones. Second, drones are often smaller and more portable than manned aircraft, thereby allowing the Navy to squeeze more drones onto the deck of its aircraft carriers.
“This is an historic day,” said Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson in an article published on the official Navy website. “We will look back on this day and recognize that this event represents a dramatic shift in the way we define warfighting requirements, work with industry, integrate unmanned and manned aircraft, and improve the lethality of the airwing — all at relevant speed. Everyone who helped achieve this milestone should be proud we’re here. But we have a lot more to do. It’s not the time to take our foot off the gas. Let’s keep charging.”
With a projected date of completion scheduled for 2025, you probably won’t see any drones on the Navy’s aircraft carriers anytime soon. Nonetheless, experts say that the Navy — along with other branches of the U.S. military — will continue to explore UAV technology. It eliminates the risk of injury or death to pilots, and it allows carriers to carry more aircraft. The MQ-25A is just one of many drone projects lined up by the military.
You can check out this press release by the Navy to learn more about the carrier-launched drone project.