The US Navy’s MQ-25 Stingray unmanned air-to-air refuelling system successfully passed fuel to a manned F/A-18F Super Hornet for the first time on June 4.
The refuelling was conducted by Boeing’s T1 test air vehicle using a hose and drogue pod system. Before the successful hook-up and offload, the T1 air vehicle had flown 25 test flights since its first flight in September 2019 to validate its aerodynamics and flight envelope.
Boeing was awarded the MQ-25 Stingray contract in August 2018, and is manufacturing a seven test articles which will be delivered to the US Navy from next year.
“This team of professionals was integral in the successful flight,” the US Navy’s Program Executive Officer for Unmanned Aviation and Strike Weapons, Rear Adm Brian Corey said in a June 7 statement. “Over the next few years, we will work side-by-side with Boeing to deliver this capability that will greatly enhance the future carrier air wing.”
Leanne Caret, president and CEO of Boeing Defense, Space & Security, added, “This history-making event is a credit to our joint Boeing and Navy team that is all-in on delivering MQ-25’s critical aerial refueling capability to the fleet as soon as possible. Their work is the driving force behind the safe and secure integration of unmanned systems in the immediate future of defense operations.”
The MQ-25 is planned to have a reported offload capability of 15,000lbs of fuel at a range of 250km from a carrier, giving outbound or returning combat aircraft greater range and mission flexibility, while also freeing-up Super Hornets currently used for the refuelling mission.