June 30 (UPI) — The initial group of Aviation Warrant Officers who will be trained to fly the MQ-25 drone aircraft will be selected in August, the U.S. Navy said on Wednesday.
The new identification for those with a specialty in flying the unmanned aerial vehicle, Aerial Vehicle Operator warrant officer, was announced in December 2020.
Within 10 years, the Navy expects to have about 450 personnel within the specialty, known as an 737X designation.
A board will meet on Aug. 2 to select the initial cadre of volunteers, chosen from Navy personnel and civilians. Those chosen will complete Officer Candidate School in Newport, R.I., as well as basic flight training and advanced training with the MQ-25.
The AVO warrant officer will be charged with operating MQ-25 Stingray unmanned aerial vehicles, which are typically launched from sea-based vessels.
The aircraft will be included in fleet carrier air wings by 2024, the Navy said.
“Unlike traditional Navy Chief Warrant Officers, the majority of these officers will be accessed much younger and trained along the lines of current Naval Aviators and Naval Flight Officers,” Capt. Christopher Wood of the Bureau of Naval Personnel said in December when plans for the specialty were announced.
“Naval Aviators and Naval Flight Officers require assignments that progress in tactical and leadership scope to be competitive for promotion, while warrant officer AVO’s will be technical specialists and spend their careers as operators,” Wood said at the time.
The Navy began its efforts to develop an aircraft carrier-based unmanned aerial vehicle in 2006.
The Boeing-built MQ-25 can carry armaments and surveillance equipment, and has already once been used as an airborne refueling station.
The Navy’s call for applicants was released on Monday, with applications due by July 26.