Military, Unmanned

MQ-25 Unmanned Aerial Tanker Completes First Test Flight, Boeing Says

By Frank Wolfe | September 20, 2019
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Boeing and the U.S. Navy "successfully completed" the first test flight of the Boeing MQ-25 Stingray unmanned aerial tanker on Sept. 19.

The two hour flight involved Boeing test pilots at a ground control station at MidAmerica St. Louis Airport in Mascoutah, Ill., where the test program is based., according to the company.

"The aircraft completed an autonomous taxi and takeoff and then flew a pre-determined route to validate the aircraft’s basic flight functions and operations with the ground control station," Boeing said.

In August last year, the Navy picked Boeing over teams led by General Atomics and Lockheed Martin to develop and build the Stingray in a contract worth $805 million. Under the contract, Boeing is to build four Engineering Development Model (EDM) MQ-25s for the Navy. While the Navy is to use the MQ-25 to extend a carrier air wing's range by 300 to 400 miles and to free up aircraft now used as refuelers — Boeing F/A-18 E/F Super Hornets — for strike missions, the service may also use the Stingray for limited intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR).

In September, 2017 a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report noted the Navy expects to invest almost $2.5 billion in MQ-25 through fiscal year 2022 and the service does not expect total development costs to reach over $5 billion. The Navy plans to buy 72 MQ-25s for $13 billion.

“The flight of this test asset two years before our first MQ-25 arrives represents the first big step in a series of early learning opportunities that are helping us progress toward delivery of a game-changing capability for the carrier air wing and strike group commanders," said Navy Capt. Chad Reed, the program manager for the Navy's Unmanned Carrier Aviation (PMA-268).

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