Navy fighter jet refueled by unmanned Boeing drone, first time in history
“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,” said Rear Adm. Brian Corey.
Science & Tech
An unmanned Boeing aircraft successfully refueled a US Navy fighter jet while in mid-flight for the first time in aviation history.
The combined US Air Force-Boeing refueling exercise last week demonstrated that the Boeing MQ-25 Stingray can carry out tanker missions utilizing the Navy's probe-and-drogue aerial refueling method, the US NAVAIR Public Affairs office announced in a statement.
“This flight lays the foundation for integration into the carrier environment, allowing for greater capability toward manned-unmanned teaming concepts,” said Rear Adm. Brian Corey. Corey 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.”
During the historic June 4 exercise, the Navy F/A-18 Super Hornet warplane made an approach to the MQ-25 T1 test asset and established a tight formation – at points coming in close to 20 feet behind the unmanned drone – to ensure peak “performance and stability prior to refueling,” Boeing said.
The carrier-based twin-engine F/A-18 is also manufactured by Boeing, which offers multiple variants of the multi-role fighter jet to the United States military.
After the F/A-18 fighter pilot conducted a formation evaluation, wake survey and drogue tracking, the Boeing aircraft outstretched its hose to reach the drogue on the F/A-18, successfully plugging into and refueling the fighter jet while making history in the process.