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MQ-25 Stingray Completes First Carrier Tests

Proof of Handling Characteristics and Integration into Carrier Operations

Boeing and the US Navy have successfully manoeuvred the MQ-25 Stingray test aircraft on a USN aircraft carrier for the first time, the company announced on 20 December.

An early step on the road to ensuring the unmanned tanker will integrate seamlessly into routine carrier operations, the test saw the aircraft marshalled and directed on the deck of the USS George H W Bush (CVN 77) by a deck handling operator (DHO) using a new handheld deck control device. Manoeuvres included taxiing on the deck, connecting to the catapult, clearing the landing area and parking on the deck.

This is another significant step forward in demonstrating MQ-25’s integration into the Carrier Air Wing on the flight deck of our fleet’s aircraft carriers,” said Capt Chad Reed, Unmanned Carrier Aviation Program Manager. “The success of this event is a testament to the hard work of our engineers, testers, operators and the close collaboration and teaming from Naval Air Force Atlantic and the crew aboard CVN 77.

The Navy has a rigorous, well-established process for moving aircraft on the carrier. Our goal was to ensure the MQ-25 fits into the process without changing it,” said Jim Young, MQ-25 Chief Engineer. “From the design of the aircraft to the design of the system moving it, our team has worked hard to make the MQ-25 carrier-suitable in every way.”

DHOs trained in Boeing’s deck handling simulation lab in St Louis, where they practiced entering commands from carrier deck officers into the real handheld device. A simulated MQ-25, running the aircraft’s real operational flight code and interfaces, would move accordingly. The handheld controller is a simple, easy-to-use device, designed specifically for a generation of sailors who understand such handheld technology and have experience with controllers used in the gaming industry today.

The deck handling demonstration followed a two-year flight test campaign for the test aircraft, during which the Boeing and Navy team refueled three different carrier-based aircraft – an F/A-18, an E-2D and an F-35C.

The Navy gave us two key performance parameters for the program – aerial refueling and integration onto the carrier deck,” said Dave Bujold, Boeing MQ-25 Program Director. “We’ve shown that the MQ-25 can meet both requirements, and we’ve done it years earlier than traditional acquisition programs.”

The MQ-25 Stingray test aircraft on board the USS George H W Bush. (Photo: Boeing)

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