The US Navy has placed an order for three additional MQ-25 Stingray aerial refueling drones from Boeing.
“The US Navy has awarded Boeing a contract modification for three additional MQ-25 unmanned aerial refueling aircraft, bringing the total number of aircraft Boeing is manufacturing to seven,” Boeing announced Thursday.
The MQ-25 will provide the Navy with a much-needed carrier-based unmanned aerial refueling capability. It resulted from the Carrier-Based Aerial-Refueling System (CBARS) program. It will allow for better use of the combat strike fighters currently performing the tanking role and will extend the range of the carrier air wing.
The aircraft can refuel fighters such as F/A-18 Super Hornet, EA-18G Growler and Lockheed Martin F-35C, mid-flight.
“This order establishes uninterrupted production of the first MQ-25 aircraft and lines up with the Navy’s MQ-25 test and training plans for fleet introduction. The MQ-25 program is vital in ensuring the Navy can deliver a critical unmanned aerial refueling capability to the carrier air wing,” said Dave Bujold, Boeing’s MQ-25 program director.
This $84.7 million modification exercises options for three MQ-25 system demonstration test articles, and was an option identified in the original $805 million contract for four aircraft awarded in August 2018.
The MQ-25 test asset, known as T1, received its experimental airworthiness certificate from the FAA in September, verifying that the air vehicle meets the agency’s requirements for safe flight.
“Early flight testing of Boeing’s MQ-25 test asset, T1, is contributing to program progress. The company recently concluded the first round of flight testing for T1, resulting in nearly 30 hours in the air at various speeds and altitudes,” the company said.
The aircraft is now undergoing a planned modification that includes installation of an aerial refueling store (ARS) under the left wing. Flight testing with the ARS will resume later this year.