Boeing is to supply the MQ-25 “Stingray” unmanned aerial refueler to the US Navy to operate from its aircraft carriers.
Boeing beat Lockheed Martin and General Atomics for the contract to develop the MQ-25 after Northrup Grumman dropped out last year.
The MQ-25, which is also known as the T1, is being tested at Boeing’s St. Louis site. T1 has so far completed engine runs and deck handling demonstrations to prove the agility and ability of the aircraft to move around within the tight confines of a carrier deck.
The US$805m contract will fund further engineering and manufacturing development and provide four aircraft. The work will continue to be conducted at Boeing’s St Louis site in Missouri.
Leanne Caret, president and CEO of Boeing Defense, Space & Security, said, “As a company, we made an investment in both our team and in an unmanned aircraft system that meets the US Navy’s refueling requirements. The fact that we’re already preparing for first flight is thanks to an outstanding team who understands the Navy and their need to have this important asset on carrier decks around the world.”
The requirements for the MQ-25 were for the capability to deliver 14,000 lb (6,300kg) of fuel to aircraft 500 nautical miles (926km) away.
According to the US Navy, the MQ-25 Stingray will allow for better use of combat strike fighters such as the F/A-18 Super Hornet, Boeing EA-18G Growler, and Lockheed Martin F-35C aircraft. MQ-25 is launched by the catapult and launch and recovery systems of the US Navy’s aircraft carriers.
The supply contract could cover up to 72 Stingrays at a cost of US$13bn.