The US Navy’s MQ-25 Stingray uncrewed aerial refuelling system has successfully refuelled a Northrop Grumman E-2D Hawkeye AEW&C aircraft in flight.
The key test is the second type to be refuelled by the MQ-25 after the system successfully offloaded fuel to a Super Hornet in flight in June. The E-2D was originally built without the ability to be refuelled in flight, but this was retrofitted to the fleet and adopted for later build aircraft after Japan specified it for its E-2Ds.
The test saw the E-2D approach the MQ-25 at various speeds, conduct multiple ‘plug-ins’, test the wake turbulence effect on the receiver aircraft, and conduct emergency breakaways.
“Once operational, the MQ-25 will refuel every receiver-capable platform including E-2,” the US Navy’s Unmanned Carrier Aviation (PMA-268) program manager, Capt Chad Reed said in a release. “This flight keeps us on a fast track to getting the Stingray out to the fleet where its refuelling capability will greatly increase the range and operational flexibility of the carrier air wing and strike group.”
Capt. Michael France, the US Navy’s Airborne Command & Control and Logistics Wing (ACCLW) commodore added, “MQ-25 is leading the way as naval aviation transforms to include cutting-edge unmanned platforms. Our fleet integration team (FIT) is actively preparing for the Stingray’s arrival and we’re excited for the innovative capabilities of the MQ-25 that will transform our mobility and power projection.”
The test airframe – dubbed T1 – is owned by Boeing which was awarded the MQ-25 Stingray contract in August 2018. The company is manufacturing seven test articles which will be delivered to the US Navy from next year.
The US Navy will stand up the fleet replacement squadron, Unmanned Carrier-Launched Multi Role Squadron (VUQ) 10 later this year, followed by two MQ-25A squadrons, VUQ-11 and 12 which will deploy detachments of operational MQ-25As to aircraft carriers.