top of page

Early part of Navy's Common Control System to work with MQ-25


The MQ-25 unmanned aerial tanker will incorporate an early version of the Navy’s Common Control System, a first step in the service’s long-term effort to create software capable of operating surface, sub-surface and aerial unmanned platforms.


The MQ-25 Stingray’s ground control station will have a “vehicle management command and control capability” developed using CCS, according to executives at Raytheon, the company on contract to integrate the system onto Navy platforms.


At its core, CCS will combine new software and open architecture standards that enable the Navy to control different unmanned platforms using a common system. Incorporating this version of the system into the MQ-25 program represents an early step on a long path the Navy has set for itself to integrate unmanned vehicles into the fleet.


A spokeswoman for MQ-25 prime contractor Boeing declined to comment. Navy spokeswoman Jamie Cosgrove confirmed to Inside Defense that Raytheon’s vehicle management capability will be used with the new aircraft program.


Currently, the Navy integrates separate control software for each unmanned vehicle it operates, which is cumbersome from an integration and training perspective, according to multiple officials who discussed CCS this week at the Sea Air Space symposium at National Harbor, MD.


“If we want to have multiple types of air vehicles, or even multiple types of unmanned systems,” said Rear Adm. Brian Corey, program executive officer overseeing the MQ-25 program, “we don’t want to continue to buy and sustain and update [different control systems], so that’s why we’re going to a common control system.”


But Corey and other officials acknowledge having one software program that fits every platform will not be achieved anytime soon, which is why the Navy is implementing it piecemeal where feasible.


“There are elements of commonality, there are elements of standards, there are elements of software that we are working with” on various unmanned vehicles, he told reporters earlier this week.


“And then over time there’s going to be more and more commonality, and that’s been mandated,” he continued.


The mandate came in the form of a Jan. 31 memorandum signed by Vice Adm. William Merz, the service’s top requirements officer. Raytheon provided a copy of that document to Inside Defense.


“This memo designates Common Control System (CCS) as the Modular Open Systems Architecture (MOSA) control station solution for all Navy Unmanned Systems (UxS),” the document states.


Merz further directed the air warfare requirements director to create a roadmap for CCS implementation on every planned unmanned system by Sept. 30.


“This roadmap will include timelines, key milestones, funding required, funding programmed, and the resource sponsor’s UxS and CCS plan for [program objective memorandum fiscal year 2022],” according to the document.


Although the Navy is leading CCS development, the system also has the attention of the Pentagon’s top brass.


“CCS is currently being reviewed by the Joint Staff as a Department of Defense solution, which will further reduce fielding, training, and sustainment costs,” Vice Chief of Naval Operations Adm. William Moran told the Senate Armed Services Committee last month in written testimony as part of his nomination to become the Navy’s top officer.


Raytheon began developing the idea of a common control system five years ago while supporting the Navy’s MQ-8 Fire Scout program, Bob Busey, program director for the company’s unmanned vehicle control systems, told Inside Defense in an interview this week. He also said the company’s work on the Navy’s MQ-4C Triton and the Air Force’s RQ-4 Global Hawk contributed to developing CCS.


In August, the company won an $11 million delivery order through a multiple award contract to be the Navy’s CCS integrator. That contract vehicle was established in March 2015 for “software development, test and evaluation, maintenance, integration, training, and fielding of strike planning and execution systems,” according to the Defense Department contract announcement at the time.


The memorandum declaring CCS as the Navy’s preferred solution for unmanned vehicles marks a significant moment for Raytheon, which has effectively solidified a place in the Navy’s unmanned portfolio for the foreseeable future.


“That [memo] is a real testament to the Navy program office working with Raytheon and other contractors to bring that system together and is now at the point of maturity where they mandated that for all Navy unmanned systems,” Kurt Engel, Raytheon’s business development manager for Navy programs, told Inside Defense in the same interview with Busey.


The program office Engel referred to is Naval Air Systems Command’s Strike Planning and Execution Systems.


That office and Raytheon are also working with Naval Sea Systems Command’s unmanned maritime systems program office, PMS-406, which is largely responsible for the fleet’s unmanned surface and undersea vehicles.


“The challenge [with developing a common system] is every unmanned system is a little bit different and has its own requirements,” Capt. Pete Small, PMS-406 program manager, said during a briefing at the conference this week.


In parallel with the Common Control System, Small’s office is developing an Unmanned Maritime Autonomy Architecture through a series of industry days, which Raytheon executives said they are attending.


That project’s goal is to standardize the various interfaces within unmanned vehicles to ensure different components can work together, regardless of which vendor manufactured them.


The UMAA and CCS both stand to reduce a problem that Small’s deputy describes as “vendor lock.”


“There's a brand-new autonomy controller that comes out that is whiz-bang and does much better performance than the one currently in this

vehicle,” PMS-406 Deputy Program Manager Howard Berkof, describing a hypothetical situation, told Inside Defense in an April interview.


“I have the standard interface. I take out the existing one and I put someone else’s autonomy controller in, and all of sudden you get increased capability or increased reliability,” said Berkof, speaking about the UMAA.


Busey described a similar situation when explaining the benefits of CCS.


“Whoever is out there inventing the new mission planners or mission management capabilities,” the Navy will be able to take advantage of that, he said.

bottom of page