F-35 Lightning can now be refueled in the air by a drone

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WASHINGTON – The next, third operation related to refueling from the MQ-25 Stingray unmanned aerial vehicle was a success, learned BulgarianMilitary.com, citing Defense24. The fifth-generation fighter, the F-35C, joined the group of planes that refueled with the MQ-25, i.e. the F / A-18 Super Hornet and the E-2D Hawkeye.

The event in question took place on Monday, September 13, during a three-hour operation over St. Louis, Illinois, at an altitude of just over three kilometers. The F-35C, piloted by a US Navy pilot, approached the Boeing T-1 [or MQ-25] unmanned aerial vehicle and maintained a steady speed of about 417 kilometers per hour.

As in previous operations, also this time, before the refueling itself, the systems were tested and the UAV itself was evaluated, after which the man-operated machine connected to the fuel line of the above-mentioned machine, and the ground drone operator started the refueling procedure. Traditionally, telemetry has been collected so that Boeing can continue to work on updating the MQ-25 software.

It is worth adding that this was the third case in the entire history of refueling with drones. The first one took place in June this year, when the F / A-18 Super Hornet pilot did it, also refueling from the Stingray. For this purpose, the ARS tank was used, which was previously used by the airport F / A-18F Super Hornet for refueling other machines.

The second refueling took place last month. At that time, the E-2 Hawkeye naval early warning aircraft was taking fuel. The operation took place during a six-hour flight. US Navy aviation pilots were drawn from the VX-20 Special Evaluation Squadron.

As NAVAIR added, the tests of the T1 drone will continue over the next few months. They assume, inter alia, operating the MQ-25 from an aircraft carrier. And next year, Boeing intends to hand over-improved development versions to the army for further testing.

The US Navy Aviation plans to acquire 72 MQ-25A Stingray drones, the cost of the program was estimated at $ 13 billion. They will operate on the following US aircraft carriers: USS Dwight D. Eisenhower and USS George H.W. Bush. The first MQ-25 delivered to the US Navy is expected to be operational in 2024. According to US Navy requirements, the Stingray is to move 6,300 kg of fuel within 500 miles of the aircraft carrier. At the same time, it is expected that the MQ-25 will increase the range of impact of the carrier’s strike group by another 300 to 400 nautical miles.

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