Boeing Delivers MQ-25 Stingray to U.S. Navy for Testing

The unmanned carrier-based refueling drone will now go through 'rigorous airframe integrity evaluation,' the company said.

Boeing has delivered the first MQ-25 Stingray unmanned refueling drone to the U.S. Navy for testing, the company said Wednesday.

The MQ-25 is the Navy’s first uncrewed aerial aircraft and designed to refuel carrier-based aircraft platforms, such as the F/A-18 Super Hornet, E-2D Hawkeye, and F-35C Lightning II.

The Navy intends to buy more than 70 of the drone tankers in a bid to help extend the range of the carrier air wing. 

“The unmanned carrier-based refueler will now undergo a rigorous airframe integrity evaluation,” Boeing Defense said on X, formerly known as Twitter. “Once operational, [MQ-25] will extend the range and capability of the [U.S. Navy’s] air wing.”

In November 2021, the U.S. Navy and Boeing conducted ground testing of the MQ-25 Stingray at Chambers Field onboard Naval Station Norfolk, Virginia. [Courtesy: U.S. Navy]

Earlier this month, Boeing selected BAE Systems to upgrade and modernize the MQ-25 vehicle management system computer (VMSC). The upgrades target obsolescence issues and include an increase in computing power, BAE Systems said.

A MQ-25 Stingray sits parked in Hangar 1 on Scott Air Force Base, Illinois, May 12, 2023. The MQ-25 Stingray will be the world’s first operational, carrier-based unmanned aircraft and provide aerial refueling and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) capabilities that enhance capability and versatility for the Carrier Air Wing and Carrier Strike Group. [Courtesy: U.S. Air Force] 

“Our upgraded VMSC for the MQ-25 will deliver advanced functionality, enabling this platform to execute today and tomorrow’s critical missions, while also reducing the amount of hardware required on the aircraft through consolidation into this computer.” Corin Beck, senior director of military aircraft systems for controls and avionics solutions at BAE Systems, said in a statement.


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