The Boeing MQ-25A Stingray unmanned carrier air-to-air refuelling system has successfully conducted refuelling trials with a US Navy Lockheed Martin F-35C fighter.
The September 13 test with the F-35C represents the third aircraft type the Boeing-owned MQ-25 concept demonstrator – designated T1 – has successfully refuelled, after a Boeing F/A-18F Super Hornet in June, and a Northrop Grumman E-2D Hawkeye AEW&C aircraft in August. All three types most commonly make up a US Navy carrier air wing when deployed.
“Every test flight with another Type/Model/Series aircraft gets us one step closer to rapidly delivering a fully mission-capable MQ-25 to the fleet,” the US Navy’s Unmanned Carrier Aviation program manager, Capt Chad Reed said in a release. “Stingray’s unmatched refueling capability is going to increase the Navy’s power projection and provide operational flexibility to the Carrier Strike Group commanders.”
Boeing’s MQ-25 program director, Dave Bujold added, “This flight was yet another physical demonstration of the maturity and stability of the MQ-25 aircraft design. Thanks to this latest mission in our accelerated test program, we are confident the MQ-25 aircraft we are building right now will meet the Navy’s primary requirement – delivering fuel safely to the carrier air wing.”
T1 first flew in September 2019, and has so far completed more than 120 flight test hours. The initial US$805m (A$1.1bn) contract was awarded to Boeing in August 2018 and covers the design, development, fabrication, test, and delivery of four MQ-25A Stingray engineering and manufacturing development (EMD) air vehicles and three system demonstration articles, and includes the system’s integration into the carrier air wing.
The US Navy has a requirement for 69 operational MQ-25As in total, with the requirement of an initial operational capability (IOC) by 2024.