The U.S. Navy and Boeing have completed a second carrier-based aircraft unmanned refueling mission with the Boeing-owned MQ-25TM T1 test asset, this time refueling a Navy E-2D Hawkeye command and control aircraft.
During a test flight from MidAmerica St. Louis Airport on August 18, pilots from the U.S. Navy’s Air Test and Evaluation Squadron VX-20 conducted a successful wake survey behind MQ-25 T1 to ensure performance and stability before making contact with T1’s aerial refueling drogue. The E-2D Hawkeye received fuel from T1’s aerial refueling store during the flight.
«Once operational the MQ-25 Stingray will refuel every receiver-capable platform, including E-2D Hawkeye», said Captain 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 Stingray will be assigned to the carrier airborne early warning squadron within the carrier air wing, which currently operates the E-2 C/D Hawkeye aircraft – known as the «digital quarterback» of the fleet for its role in joint battle management and command and control.
«It was another great flight showing that our MQ-25 Stingray design is performing to plan», said Dave Bujold, Boeing’s MQ-25 Stingray program director. «These historic refueling flights provide an incredible amount of data we feed back into the MQ-25 Stingray digital models to ensure the aircraft we’re producing will be the U.S. Navy’s game-changer for the carrier air wing».
This is the second aerial refueling mission the MQ-25 Stingray team has conducted this summer. On June 4, the MQ-25 T1 test asset became the first unmanned aircraft to refuel another aircraft, a U.S. Navy Super Hornet. Both flights were conducted at operationally relevant speeds and altitudes, with the E-2D Hawkeye and F/A-18 Super Hornet performing maneuvers in close proximity to MQ-25 T1.
Boeing is currently manufacturing the first two of seven MQ-25 Stingray 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 Stingray is leveraging advancements in model-based digital engineering and design, and ongoing flights are intended to test aircraft design and performance much earlier than traditional programs.