Second Successful Refuelling of a Carrier-Based Aircraft
The US Navy and Boeing have successfully demonstrated the aerial refuelling of a carrier-based E-2D HAWKEYE command and control aircraft by an MQ-25 STINGRAY, the company announced on 19 August.
Navy pilots conducted a successful wake survey behind the MQ-25, to ensure performance and stability, before making contact with the refueling drogue. “Once operational, the MQ-25 will refuel every receiver-capable platform, including [the] E-2,” commented Capt Chad Reed, the Navy’s Unmanned Carrier Aviation Program Manager. “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.”
The MQ-25 will be assigned to the carrier airborne early warning squadron within the carrier air wing, which currently operates the E-2 C/D aircraft – known as the ‘digital quarterback’ of the fleet for its role in joint battle management and C2.
“It was another great flight, showing that our MQ-25 design is performing to plan,” stated Dave Bujold, Boeing’s MQ-25 Program Director. “These historic refueling flights provide an incredible amount of data we feed back into the MQ-25 digital models to ensure the aircraft we’re producing will be the Navy’s game-changer for the carrier air wing.”
This is the second aerial refuelling mission the MQ-25 team has conducted this summer. On 4 June, the MQ-25 T1 test asset became the first unmanned aircraft to refuel another aircraft, a US Navy Super HORNET. Both flights were conducted at operationally relevant speeds and altitudes, with the E-2D and F/A-18 performing manoeuvres in close proximity to the UAS.
Boeing is currently manufacturing the first two of seven MQ-25 test aircraft and two ground test articles currently under contract. The Boeing-owned MQ-25 T1 test asset is a predecessor to these aircraft. The MQ-25 is leveraging advances in model-based digital engineering and design, and ongoing flights are intended to test aircraft design and performance much earlier than traditional programmes.