Boeing Unveils its Offering for U.S Navy MQ-25 Aerial Refueler Competition

Boeing unveiled an unmanned aircraft system (UAS) that will be offered to the U.S. Navy’s MQ-25 competition to procure an unmanned tanker to refuel Navy jets operating from aircraft carriers.

Through its MQ-25 competition, the Navy is seeking unmanned refueling capabilities that would extend the combat range of deployed Boeing F/A-18 Super Hornet, Boeing EA-18G Growler, and Lockheed Martin F-35C fighters. The MQ-25 will also have to seamlessly integrate with a carrier’s catapult and launch and recovery systems.

“Boeing has been delivering carrier aircraft to the Navy for almost 90 years,” said Don ‘BD’ Gaddis, a retired admiral who leads the refueling system program for Boeing’s Phantom Works technology organization. “Our expertise gives us confidence in our approach. We will be ready for flight testing when the engineering and manufacturing development contract is awarded.”

The UAS is completing engine runs before heading to the flight ramp for deck handling demonstrations early next year. The Navy issued its final request for proposals in October. Proposals are due Jan. 3.

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 are 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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