F/A-18 pilot can command MQ-25 unmanned aerial tanker for aerial refueling

F/A-18 pilot can command MQ-25 unmanned aerial tanker for aerial refueling

By Dario Leone
May 3 2024
Share this article

F/A-18 pilot can command MQ-25 for refueling

Boeing has advanced its manned-unmanned teaming (MUM-T) technology using a digital F/A-18 Super Hornet and MQ-25 Stingray. The testing shows the software is maturing for future US Navy use and a potential to deploy the teaming capability on both F/A-18 Block II and III Super Hornets.

In a simulator lab, a Boeing-led team virtually demonstrated an F/A-18 pilot commanding an unmanned MQ-25 to release a refueling drogue and refuel the Super Hornet, using existing communications links on both platforms.

The new software is a maturation of tests Boeing has previously done. In addition to the upgraded software, test teams pulled in hardware and datalinks already installed on both platforms to run the finalized software further proving Boeing’s readiness to deliver this capability to the Navy.

F/A-18 pilot can command MQ-25 unmanned aerial tanker for aerial refueling
A Boeing F/A-18 systems pilot demonstrates the Manned-Unmanned Teaming (MUM-T) capability from his simulator cockpit. The Boeing-led team virtually demonstrated an F/A-18 pilot commanding an unmanned MQ-25 to release a refueling drogue and refuel the Super Hornet, using existing communications links on both platforms.

“MQ-25 is designed to typically receive commands from air vehicle pilots on an aircraft carrier. This software will add a second option, enabling pilots to initiate commands right from their cockpit,” said Alex Ewing, F/A-18 New Product Development lead, in a Boeing news release.

The MQ-25 Stingray

The Boeing-created software will significantly reduce the time it takes for an F/A-18 to communicate with an MQ-25, giving pilots greater flexibility in refueling from longer distances.

“The goal of the demonstrations was to make MUM-T refueling as real as possible,” said Juan Cajigas, director, Advanced MQ-25 program. “Aerial refueling is like a ballet as two airplanes come together. To be able to direct the activities via a single pilot, safely and efficiently, is a major step forward in aerial refueling technology.”

F/A-18 pilot can command MQ-25 unmanned aerial tanker for aerial refueling
This print is available in multiple sizes from AircraftProfilePrints.com – CLICK HERE TO GET YOURS. F/A-18E Super Hornet VX-23 Salty Dogs, SD100

The Stingray will be the world’s first operational carrier-based unmanned aircraft and provide critical aerial refueling and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) capabilities that greatly expand the global reach, operational flexibility and lethality of the carrier air wing and carrier strike group. The MQ-25 is foundational to the Navy’s Unmanned Campaign Framework and is the first step toward a future fleet augmented by unmanned systems to pace the evolving challenges of the 21st century.

The MQ-25 will assume the tanking role currently performed by F/A-18s, allowing for better use of the combat strike fighters and helping extend the range of the carrier air wing.

Along with organic tanking, the MQ-25 will pave the way for MUM-T of carrier-based aircraft that will extend the strike range and enhance maneuverability.

The US Navy F/A-18 that shot down a crewless US Navy E-2C to prevent it from crashing in a populated area
This model is available from AirModels – CLICK HERE TO GET YOURS.

Photo credit: Kevin Flynn / Boeing


Share this article

Dario Leone

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.
Share this article


Share this article
Back to top
My Agile Privacy
This website uses technical and profiling cookies. Clicking on "Accept" authorises all profiling cookies. Clicking on "Refuse" or the X will refuse all profiling cookies. By clicking on "Customise" you can select which profiling cookies to activate. In addition, this site installs Google Analytics in version 4 (GA4) with anonymous data transmission via proxy. By giving your consent, the data will be sent anonymously, thus protecting your privacy. We and our selected ad partners can store and/or access information on your device, such as cookies, unique identifiers, browsing data. You can always choose the specific purposes related to profiling by accessing the advertising preferences panel, and you can always withdraw your consent at any time by clicking on "Manage consent" at the bottom of the page.

List of some possible advertising permissions:

You can consult: our list of advertising partners, the Cookie Policy and the Privacy Policy.
Warning: some page functionalities could not work due to your privacy choices