Boeing Awarded $805 Million U.S. Navy MQ-25 Unmanned Aerial Refueling Aircraft Contract

Boeing will build the U.S. Navy’s first operational carrier-based unmanned aircraft, the MQ-25 aerial refueling aircraft, through an $805 million contract awarded on Aug. 30.

Boeing was awarded the engineering and manufacturing development contract to provide four aircraft. Boeing plans to perform the MQ-25 work in St. Louis.

“As a company, we made an investment in both our team and in an unmanned aircraft system that meets the U.S. Navy’s refueling requirements,” said Leanne Caret, president and CEO, Boeing Defense, Space & Security. “The fact that we’re already preparing for first flight is thanks to an outstanding team who understands the Navy and their need to have this important asset on carrier decks around the world.”

MQ-25 is designed to provide the U.S. Navy with a much-needed refueling capability. According to the U.S. Navy, the MQ-25 Stingray will allow for better use of combat strike fighters by extending the range of deployed Boeing F/A-18 Super Hornet, Boeing EA-18G Growler, and Lockheed Martin F-35C aircraft. MQ-25 will also seamlessly integrate with a carrier’s catapult and launch and recovery systems.

MQ-25 system is comprised of three major architectural segments: an Air Segment (AS), a Control System & Connectivity (CS&C) Segment, and a Carrier (CVN) Segment.

+ AS– Includes the MQ-25 UAS, which is composed of the MQ-25A Stingray air vehicle and associated support and handling equipment including the deck handling system, spares and repair materials.
+ CS&C – Includes the Unmanned Carrier Aviation (UCA) Mission Control System (UMCS) and its associated communication equipment; the Distributed Common Ground Station-Navy (DCGS-N) mission support functionality; all network based interfaces and routing equipment required to control the Stingray; and all required modifications to existing networks and C4I system infrastructure.
+ CVN – Composed of CVN ships’ spaces allocated to UCA as well as installed ship systems and modifications necessary for interface with the Air and CS&C segments. CVN systems important to the MQ-25 include aircraft launch and recovery systems, data dissemination systems (including radio terminals and antennas), and deck operations systems.

Boeing has been providing carrier aircraft to the U.S. Navy for more than 90 years.

MQ-25 Stingray

MQ-25 Stingray unmanned carrier aviation air system (UCAAS), formerly the Carrier-Based Aerial-Refueling System (CBARS), is a planned unmanned combat aerial system (UCAV) that resulted from the Unmanned Carrier-Launched Airborne Surveillance and Strike program (UCLSS).

On 1 February 2016, after many delays over whether the UCLASS would specialize in strike or intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) roles, it was reported that a significant portion of the UCLASS effort would be directed to produce a Super Hornet-sized carrier-based aerial refueling tanker as the Carrier-Based Aerial-Refueling System (CBARS), with “a little ISR” and some capabilities for communications relay, and strike capabilities put off to a future version of the aircraft.

In July 2016, it was officially named “MQ-25A Stingray”.

Three of these UCAVs could fly with an F-35 for refueling and sensor operation. The MQ-25 can extend the Super Hornet’s 450 nmi unrefueled combat radius to beyond 700 nmi. The Navy’s goal for the aircraft is to be able to deliver 15,000 lb (6,800 kg) of fuel to 4-6 planes at 500 nmi.

The Navy released the final MQ-25 Stingray RFP in Oct. 2017; the competitors were Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Northrop Grumman, and General Atomics. On 25 Oct.2017, Northrop Grumman announced that it was withdrawing its X-47B from the MQ-25 competition saying they would be unable to meet the terms of service for the programme.

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