Drones

Boeing MQ-25 Stingray unmanned aerial refueler Completes First Carrier Tests

The US Navy and Boeing have successfully maneuvered an MQ-25 Stingray unmanned aerial refueler on a US Navy aircraft carrier for the first time.

The US Navy and Boeing have successfully maneuvered the Boeing-owned T1 test asset on a US Navy aircraft carrier for the first time – an early step forward in ensuring the MQ-25 Stingray unmanned aerial refueler will seamlessly integrate into carrier operations.

According to a Boeing news release, during an underway demonstration aboard the USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77), Navy flight deck directors – known as “yellow shirts” – used standard hand signals to direct T1 just like any other carrier-based aircraft. Instead of a pilot receiving the commands, however, it was a Boeing MQ-25 Deck Handling Operator (DHO) right beside the “yellow shirt” who commanded the aircraft using a new handheld deck control device.

“This is another significant step forward in demonstrating MQ-25’s integration into the Carrier Air Wing on the flight deck of our Fleet’s aircraft carriers,” said Capt. Chad Reed, Unmanned Carrier Aviation program manager. “The success of this event is a testament to the hard work of our engineers, testers, operators and the close collaboration and teaming from Naval Air Force Atlantic and the crew aboard CVN 77.”

The demonstration was intended to ensure the design of the MQ-25 will successfully integrate into the carrier environment and to evaluate the functionality, capability and handling qualities of the deck handling system both in day and night conditions. Maneuvers included taxiing on the deck, connecting to the catapult, clearing the landing area and parking on the deck.

“Early testing allowed our team the opportunity to evaluate many new systems for the first time at sea with T1,” said Reed in a NAVAIR news release. “Our initial look at taxi operations on the flight deck successfully demonstrated the MQ-25’s ability to maneuver just like a manned aircraft in the shipboard environment.”

Boeing employees run diagnostics on the Boeing unmanned MQ-25 aircraft on the flight deck aboard the aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77).

“The Navy has a rigorous, well-established process for moving aircraft on the carrier. Our goal was to ensure the MQ-25 fits into the process without changing it,” said Jim Young, MQ-25 chief engineer. “From the design of the aircraft to the design of the system moving it, our team has worked hard to make the MQ-25 carrier suitable in every way.”

DHO’s trained in Boeing’s deck handling simulation lab in St. Louis, where they practiced entering commands from simulated “yellow shirts” into the real handheld device. A simulated MQ-25, running the aircraft’s real operational flight code and interfaces, would move accordingly. The handheld controller is a simple, easy-to-use device designed specifically for a generation of sailors who natively understand such handheld technology and have experience with controllers used in the gaming industry today.

The deck handling demonstration followed a two-year flight test campaign for the Boeing-owned T1 test asset, during which the Boeing and Navy team refueled three different carrier-based aircraft – an F/A-18 Super Hornet, an E-2D Hawkeye and an F-35C Lightning II.

“The Navy gave us two key performance parameters for the program – aerial refueling and integration onto the carrier deck,” said Dave Bujold, Boeing MQ-25 program director. “We’ve shown that the MQ-25 can meet both requirements, and we’ve done it years earlier than traditional acquisition programs.”

When operational, the director and deck operators will be able to taxi the MQ-25 on the carrier flight deck to the catapult launch position and to a parking location after landing. The MQ-25 will be controlled while airborne from the UAWC where the air vehicle operator executes a pre-planned mission.

The MQ-25 will be the world’s first operational, carrier-based unmanned aircraft and is integral to the future carrier air wing (CVW). It will provide an aerial refueling capability that extends the range, operational capability and lethality of the CVW and carrier strike group (CSG).

A Boeing unmanned MQ-25 aircraft is given operating directions on the flight deck aboard the aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77).

Photo credit: U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Brandon Roberson

Dario Leone

Dario Leone is an aviation, defense and military writer. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviation Geek Club” one of the world’s most read military aviation blogs. His writing has appeared in The National Interest and other news media. He has reported from Europe and flown Super Puma and Cougar helicopters with the Swiss Air Force.

Recent Posts

How Swedish Air Force’s underground facilities Inspired the Construction of Bihac (Zeljava) Underground Yugoslav Air Force Base

The Underground Yugoslav Air Force Base The air force of Tito’s Yugoslavia has had many… Read More

12 hours ago

KF-21 program at risk as South Korea’s DAPA reconsiders cooperation with Indonesia

KF-21 program: reconsidering cooperation with Indonesia Seok Jong-gun, the chief of the Defense Acquisition Program… Read More

12 hours ago

The USAF Skyraider pilot who landed his SPAD on a besieged airstrip to rescue another crash-landed A-1 pilot

The A-1 Skyraider Designed as a US Navy carrier-based aircraft, the AD (Attack, Douglas) Skyraider… Read More

1 day ago

Russia most powerful and quiet nuclear attack submarine Carries Out Missile Exercise off US East Coast

Russia most powerful nuclear attack submarine off US East Coast Kazan, a nuclear Russian Yasen-M-class… Read More

2 days ago

When Soviets faked a flyby of 28 Myasishchev M-4s to pretend they had a credible fleet of bombers, the US increased B-52 production by 35%

The fake flyby of 28 Myasishchev M-4s that increased B-52 production When the Myasishchev design… Read More

2 days ago