WASHINGTON – For the first time, this week, the Boeing MQ-25A Stingray refueling drone was taken aboard the aircraft carrier USS George HW Bush for initial tests from the ship’s deck. The US Navy plans to have 76 such drones in the future, BulgarianMilitary.com has learned, citing Flight Global.
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The tests will be conducted aboard the aircraft carrier at Norfolk Naval Base, Virginia. For testing, the US Navy will use a test specimen MQ-25A designated T1, owned by Boeing.
Earlier, the US Navy noted that relocating UAVs to narrow and congested areas on the aircraft carrier’s deck is likely to be one of the most difficult stages of the program. Yes, Boeing and the Navy have already conducted simulation tests on this component, but onboard the aircraft carrier will do so for the first time.
The US Navy plans to use the MQ-25A to refuel all deck aircraft in its fleet that has a refueling probe. So far, this UAV has been tested on aircraft such as the Lockheed Martin F-35C, Boeing F / A-18 Super Hornet, and Northrop Grumman E-2D Advanced Hawkeye.
The Navy wants an unmanned tanker to increase the range of the aircraft so that the aircraft carrier is out of range of enemy weapons. The MQ-25A is scheduled to reach initial operational readiness by 2024. Boeing has provided the service with two Stingray test units to speed up the deployment process. In total, the US Navy plans to purchase 76 such drones under its program.
The MQ-25 Stingray tests
As we reported in September this year, the third operation related to refueling from the MQ-25 Stingray unmanned aerial vehicle was a success. 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.
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