The US Navy and The Boeing Company made aviation history last week after demonstrating air-to-air refueling using an unmanned aircraft.
Boeing released a press release Monday detailing how its MQ-25 Stingray test drone refueled a McDonnell Douglas F/A-18 Hornet on June 4 near MidAmerica Airport in Mascoutah, Illinois, demonstrating the refueling capability of the new drone.
The F/A-18 test pilot flew about 20 feet separation from the MQ-25 as a hose and drogue were extended and locked into the fighter jet. Once plugged in, the drone successfully transferred fuel to the F/A-18. Boeing said both aircraft flew “at operationally relevant speeds and altitudes.”
Fueling the future: The #Navy made history June 4 conducting the first ever refueling operation between the MQ-25 T1 unmanned tanker and the F/A-18 Super Hornet.
— NAVAIR (@NAVAIRNews) June 7, 2021
Rear Adm. Brian Corey, who oversees the Program Executive Office for Unmanned Aviation and Strike Weapons, said in a statement that “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.”
“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,” said Leanne Caret, president and CEO of Boeing Defense, Space & Security. “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 the world’s first carrier-based drone to conduct in-flight refueling for aircraft that extends operational ranges of fighters, bombers, and patrol aircraft.
This refueling drone will eventually be launched from aircraft carriers to conduct refueling missions in the Indo-Pacific region as tensions between the US and China heat up.