Boeing and the U.S. Navy jointly announced on Thursday the successful completion of the MQ-25 Stingray’s second-ever unmanned in-flight refueling mission. The test flight out of MidAmerica St. Louis Airport saw the MQ-25 refuel an E-2D Advanced Hawkeye airborne early warning and command aircraft for the first time.
In a six-hour test flight on August 18, Navy E-2D pilots from Air Test and Evaluation Squadron (VX) 20 approached Boeing’s MQ-25 T1 test asset to conduct formation evaluations and wake surveys, before making contact with T1’s aerial refueling drogue at 220 knots calibrated airspeed (KCAS) and 10,000 feet. T1 then proceeded to refuel the E-2D using its aerial refueling store. According to the Navy, the coupling of the Stingray’s persistent mission tanking with the E-2D’s new aerial refueling capability will “enhance the Hawkeye’s ability to provide comprehensive battle management for extended periods from anywhere within the battlespace”.
Boeing MQ-25 program director Dave Bujold said that the “great flight” showed that the MQ-25 design was “performing to plan”. He continued: “These historic refueling flights provide an incredible amount of data we feed back into the MQ-25 digital models to ensure the aircraft we’re producing will be the Navy’s game-changer for the carrier air wing”.
MQ-25 is leading the way as naval aviation transforms to include cutting-edge unmanned platforms,” said Capt. Michael France, the Navy’s Airborne Command & Control and Logistics Wing (ACCLW) commodore.
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. For the first time, the eyes and ears of the fleet will now be able to provide up-to-the-minute information from deep within theater to facilitate rapid-decision making by carrier strike group leadership.
MQ-25 T1 performed the first-ever unmanned in-flight refueling of an aircraft in June, refueling a Navy Super Hornet. Boeing says that it is now building the first two of seven MQ-25 test aircraft and two ground test articles ordered by the Navy, with delivery of the test aircraft expected next year according to Navy plans.
The Navy states that it will begin standing up the fleet replacement squadron, Unmanned Carrier-Launched Multi Role Squadron (VUQ) 10, later this year. The fleet replacement squadron will then be followed by two MQ-25A squadrons, VUQ-11 and 12, which will deploy operational MQ-25s aboard aircraft carriers.