on Aug. 18, 2021, Boeing MQ-25 Stingray Tanker Drone refuels Navy E-2D Advanced Hawkeye command and control aircraft for the first time.
The Boeing-owned MQ-25 test asset, known as T1, transferred fuel to an E-2D Advanced Hawkeye, the most recent variant of the Hawkeye platform, that was given an AAR (Air-to-Air Refueling) capability in 2019, in a test that follows the very first aerial refueling between an unmanned tanker and a manned receiver aircraft that took place on June 4, 2021, with the Boeing-owned MQ-25 T1 test asset flying from MidAmerica Airport in Mascoutah (Illinois) and employing the Cobham Aerial Refueling Store (ARS), and a U.S. Navy F/A-18F Super Hornet.
“Once operational, the MQ-25 will refuel every receiver-capable platform including E-2,” said Capt. Chad Reed, the Navy’s Unmanned Carrier Aviation (PMA-268) program manager in a NAVAIR (Naval Air Systems Command) release. “This flight keeps us on a fast track to getting the Stingray out to the fleet where its refueling capability will greatly increase the range and operational flexibility of the carrier air wing and strike group.”
According to NAVAIR, the test flight lasted 6 hours. Navy E-2D pilots from Air Test and Evaluation Squadron Two Zero (VX) 20 approached T1, performed formation evaluations, wake surveys, drogue tracking and plugs with the MQ-25 test asset at 220 knots calibrated airspeed (KCAS) and 10,000 feet with the purpose of analyzing the aerodynamic interaction of the two aircraft. The outcome of the test will be used to determine if any adjustments to guidance and control are required and make those available via software updates
The MQ-25 Stingray will be the world’s first operational carrier-based unmanned aircraft and provide critical aerial refueling and intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) capabilities that greatly expand the global reach, operational flexibility, and lethality of the carrier air wing and carrier strike group.
The MQ-25 is foundational to the Navy’s Unmanned Campaign Framework and is the first step toward a future fleet augmented by unmanned systems to pace the evolving challenges of the 21st century.
The MQ-25 will assume the tanking role currently performed by F/A-18s, allowing for better use of the combat strike fighters and helping extend the range of the carrier air wing.