U.S. Navy Secretary Ray Mabus has said he believes the Navy’s Lockheed Martin-built F-35s should be the last type of manned aerial platform in the U.S. naval aircraft fleet, USNI News reported Wednesday.
“Unmanned systems, particularly autonomous ones, have to be the new normal in ever-increasing areas,” Mabus told his audience at the Navy League’s Sea-Air-Space symposium Wednesday.
Mabus also announced at the event that he will appoint someone to fill the position of deputy assistant secretary for unmanned systems, according USNI News.
He added the military service also plans to establish a staff office to oversee unmanned operations.
Navy Times reports the branch has conducted an aerial refueling test for a carrier-based unmanned combat air system.
Capt. Beau Duarte, a Navy program manager, told the publication the UCAS demonstration program is a precursor of the Unmanned Carrier Launched Aerial Surveillance and Strike development initiative.
Duarte expects the service to begin seeking proposals for the UCLASS platform early next year and award a contract in early 2017, according to Navy Times.