MQ-25 Stingray drone refuels E-2D command and control aircraft in mid-air
Boeing's MQ-25 T1 Stingray jet-propelled air tanker drone has successfully refueled a US Navy E-2D Hawkeye command and control aircraft. The test flight, which took place at the Mid America St. Louis Airport on August 18, was carried out by Navy pilots from the Air Test and Evaluation Squadron VX-20.
The recent test follows on the June 4 flight when the MQ-25 prototype made its historic first mid-air refueling of a US Navy F/A-18 Super Hornet fighter plane. The purpose of the second test was not only to demonstrate the compatibility of the drone with the Hawkeye, but also to gather data on how well the Hawkeye can keep station in the wake of the MQ-25's jet engine wash under operational speeds and altitudes.
During the test, the Hawkeye gathered data on its performance and stability and then approached the drone's extended aerial refueling drogue before making contact and taking on fuel from the MQ-25's onboard refueling tank. The data collected will be used to upgrade the digital models of the MQ-25 that will help improve the first production models for the US carrier air wing.
Boeing is manufacturing a fleet of seven MQ-25 Stingrays to supersede the T1 prototype for flight tests and two more for ground testing. When the craft goes into production, it will join the Navy's carrier airborne early warning squadron within the carrier air wing, where it will support the E-2 C/D and other aircraft.
“Once operational the MQ-25 will refuel every receiver-capable platform, including E-2,” says 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.”