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12:15 PM, August 31, 2018
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MQ-25A Autonomous Refueling UAV: Navytimes illustration

Boeing has won an $805.3 million contract to build the first four MQ-25A Stingray autonomous refueling drones for the United States Navy.

The contract covers design, development, fabrication, test, verification, certification, delivery and support of four MQ-25A vehicles, the Department of Defense said Thursday. Some 45% of the work will be done at Boeing’s Phantom Works plant in St. Louis, with the rest performed in a number of facilities in the US and abroad.

The MQ-25 Stingray is meant to refuel Navy fighter jets such as the Boeing F/A-18 and the Lockheed Martin F-35C Lightning II in midair. It will have to deliver about 15,000 pounds of fuel, 500 nautical miles out from an aircraft carrier giving the fighters an additional 300 to 400 miles of flight range.

The drones will launch and land on aircraft carriers similar to fighter jets.

Boeing was in competition for the contract with two teams that were led by Lockheed Martin and General Atomics. Northrop Grumman was invited to submit a bid, but dropped out of the competition last October.

The first four Stingrays are to be delivered by August 2024. The Navy is expected to buy as many as 72 of the planes with an estimated total price tag of as much as $13 billion.

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