The Navy and Boeing successfully completed the first test flight of the MQ-25, the first operational carrier-based unmanned refueling aircraft, Sept. 19 from MidAmerica Airport in Mascoutah, Illinois. The Boeing-owned MQ-25 test asset, known as T1 (civilian registration N234MQ), completed an FAA-certified autonomous taxi and take-off and flew a pre-determined route for a two-hour flight to validate the aircraft’s basic flight functions and operations.
“Today’s flight is an exciting and significant milestone for our program and the Navy,” said Capt. Chad Reed, the Navy’s Unmanned Carrier Aviation (PMA-268) program manager. “The flight of this test asset two years before our first MQ-25 arrives represents the first big step in a series of early learning opportunities that are helping us progress toward delivery of a game-changing capability for the carrier air wing and strike group commanders.”
Testing will continue with T1 over the next several years to further the early learning and discovery that advances major systems and software development in support of the program’s 2024 initial operational capability target. The company will deliver the Engineering Development Model aircraft beginning in fiscal 2021.
The MQ-25A Stingray will be the world’s first operational carrier-based unmanned aircraft, designed to provide an aerial refueling capability. Integration of the Stingray into the Carrier Air Wing (CVW) will increase the number of F/A-18E/Fs available for strike fighter missions and extend the range of the CVW, improving its performance, efficiency and safety.
MQ-25 is a Navy Maritime Accelerated Acquisition program, aiming to deliver mission-critical capabilities to the fleet as rapidly as possible to meet warfighter needs. The Navy awarded Boeing an $805.3 million Engineering, Manufacturing and Development contract for the MQ-25 Aug. 30, 2018.