Boeing Reveals Unmanned MQ-25 Carrier-Launched Tanker

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Boeing’s design will compete for a Navy contract to build unmanned tankers for aircraft carriers‭.‬
Boeing released a photo of its MQ-25‭ ‬Stingray prototype‭, ‬an unmanned carrier-based tanker aircraft‭. ‬The U.S‭. ‬Navy is looking for‭ ‬an unmanned tanker that can operate with existing carrier catapult launch and recovery systems‭. ‬The MQ-25‭ ‬will fly missions to‭ ‬extend the range of Navy F/A-18‭ ‬Super Hornets‭, ‬EA-18G Growlers‭, ‬and F-35C Lightning II fighters‭.‬
A final request for proposals‭ (‬RFP‭) ‬was issued by the Navy‭. ‬In addition to Boeing’s bid‭, ‬Lockheed Martin is expected to submit a‭ ‬proposal for the MQ-25‭ ‬contract‭. ‬General Atomics‭, ‬which builds the MQ-1‭ ‬Predator and MQ-9‭ ‬Reaper military drones‭, ‬will also submit a bid‭, ‬having revealed artist concepts of its tanker drone design in October shortly after the RFP was announced‭.‬
“Boeing has been delivering carrier aircraft to the Navy for almost 90‭ ‬years‭,‬”‭ ‬said Don Gaddis‭, ‬head of the refueling system program at Boeing’s Phantom Works‭, ‬in a press release‭. ‬“Our expertise gives us confidence in our approach‭. ‬We will be ready for flight testing when the engineering and manufacturing development contract is awarded‭.‬”
Boeing’s MQ-25‭ ‬prototype will undergo additional engine tests before flight ramp and deck handling demonstrations that will be conducted on an aircraft carrier early next year‭. ‬After the handling demonstrations‭, ‬Boeing will need to launch the MQ-25‭ ‬off a carrier deck for its first flight‭.‬
The image released by Boeing reveals robust landing gear for carrier operations and possibly a low-observable design‭, ‬although stealth is not one of the primary requirements for the drone tanker‭. ‬The Navy‭, ‬however‭, ‬has been researching a multitude of carrier-launched aerial drone systems for years‭, ‬from surveillance to electronic warfare to strike operations‭.‬

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