The US Navy’s Boeing MQ-25 Stingray UAS made its first flight from the test program’s base at MidAmerica Airport in Illinois on September 19.
The aircraft – designated T1 – is designed to operate from aircraft carriers to provide unmanned air-to-air refuelling and ISR support to US Navy combat aircraft. For its first flight, T1 was remotely controlled by Boeing test pilots.
“The aircraft completed an autonomous taxi and takeoff and then flew a pre-determined route to validate the aircraft’s basic flight functions and operations with the ground control station,” a Boeing statement said.
“Seeing MQ-25 in the sky is a testament to our Boeing and Navy team working the technology, systems and processes that are helping get MQ-25 to the carrier,” MQ-25 Program Director Dave Bujold said in the release. “This aircraft and its flight test program ensures we’re delivering the MQ-25 to the carrier fleet with the safety, reliability and capability the U.S. Navy needs to conduct its vital mission.”
Boeing was awarded a US$805m contract in August 2018 to develop the MQ-25 – ahead of contenders from General Atomics and Lockheed Martin – to design, development, manufacture, test and deliver four MQ-25s by 2022.
“Today’s flight is an exciting and significant milestone for our program and the Navy,” US Navy Unmanned Carrier Aviation (PMA-268) Program Manager Capt Chad Reed said. “The flight of this test asset two years before our first MQ-25 arrives represents the first big step in a series of early learning opportunities that are helping us progress toward delivery of a game-changing capability for the carrier air wing and strike group commanders.”
The US Navy has a requirement for 72 MQ-25s to take over the carrier-borne AAR mission from F/A-18E/F Super Hornets equipped with buddy refuelling packs.