NAVAIR Vice Commander

Captain Eric M. Gardner, United States Navy

Captain Eric Gardner grew up around the world in an Army family and attended high school in Woodbridge, Virginia. He graduated from the U. S. Naval Academy in 1996 with a bachelor’s degree in Ocean Engineering and earned a master’s degree in Aviation Systems from the University of Tennessee in 2007.  In 2014, he completed the Naval Air Systems Leadership Development Program.

Following designation as a Naval Flight Officer (NFO), he reported to the Skinny Dragons of Patrol Squadron Four (VP-4).  He served in a variety of assignments to include NFO instructor and NFO training officer.  In 2001-02, he served as mission commander on numerous combat missions in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. 

He was selected as an aerospace engineering duty officer (AEDO) in 2003, and in 2004 he reported to the U.S. Naval Test Pilot School at NAS Patuxent River, Maryland, graduating with Class 127.  His test project officer tour was at Air Test and Evaluation Squadron Two Zero (VX-20) where he led testing for the P-3C Littoral Surveillance Radar System and the early development of the P-8A Poseidon aircraft. 

In 2007, he reported as an avionics systems project officer for the P-8A during initial development and integration of the mission systems suite.  In 2009, he transferred to PMA-213 as the integrated project team lead for the Joint Precision Approach and Landing System (JPALS) Increments 1A and 1B where he led the effort to integrate JPALS onto U.S. Navy ships, the F-35C, and various other air platforms.

In 2011, he reported as the assistant program manager for systems engineering for the P-8A in support of PMA-290.  As class desk, he was responsible for all engineering efforts for the program as it completed Developmental and Operational Test, Initial Operational Capability (IOC), and first deployment. 

In 2014, he was selected to represent the AEDO community as the detailer at Navy Personnel Command. He served in this capacity until 2016, when he reported to the Advanced Sensors Technology Program Office to serve as the deputy program manager and integrated product team lead for the Advanced Airborne Sensor radar and the Littoral Surveillance Radar System.  In 2018, he was selected to be the Executive Assistant to the Commander, Naval Air Systems Command, where he served until 2020. 

In 2020 Captain Gardner assumed command as Program Manager for the Maritime Patrol & Reconnaissance Aircraft Program Office (PMA-290) at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Maryland.  He was responsible for total life-cycle management of the P-8A Poseidon, P-3C Orion, EP-3E Aries, Special Projects Aircraft, and International Programs to multiple foreign countries. 

Captain Gardner assumed the role of Vice Commander, Naval Air Systems Command, in May 2024.

Gardner has over 2,000 flight hours in 12 different type/models/series of aircraft.  His is the recipient of the Legion of Merit, Meritorious Service Medal, Strike/Flight Air Medal, and various personal, unit, and sea service awards.

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