New Delhi: For the first time in history, the United States Navy in collaboration with Boeing managed to refuel an aircraft in mid-air using a drone. Boring used its MQ-25 Stingray for the mission to refuel a F/A-18 Super Hornet fighter jet. The successful test showed that unmanned aircraft are now capable of refueling planes in the sky using the probe-and-drogue aerial refueling method used by the US Navy.
This flight lays the foundation for integration into the carrier environment, allowing for greater capability toward manned-unmanned teaming concepts,” said Rear Admiral Brian Corey who oversees the Program Executive Office for Unmanned Aviation and Strike Weapons.
“MQ-25 will greatly increase the range and endurance of the future carrier air wing – equipping our aircraft carriers with additional assets well into the future,” added Corey.
Captain Chad Reed, program manager for the Navy’s Unmanned Carrier Aviation program office (PMA-268) said, “This is our mission, an unmanned aircraft that frees our strike fighters from the tanker role, and provides the Carrier Air Wing with greater range, flexibility, and capability.”
“Seeing the MQ-25 fulfilling its primary tasking today, fuelling a F/A-18, is a significant and exciting moment for the Navy and shows concrete progress toward realizing MQ-25’s capabilities for the fleet,” added Reed.
Further tests will be conducted over the coming months to test the MQ-25’s capacity.
If inducted, it will be the first unmanned flight that can provide mid-air refueling and also serves as an intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) aircraft.
The project is part of the US Navy’s unmanned Campaign Framework in which unmanned aircraft will be inducted to combat the new challenges in sky warfare.