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Boeing wins bid to build the Navy’s carrier-launched tanker drone - Boeing refuel drone MQ-25 Stingray (2).jpg

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Old September 1st 18, 04:30 AM posted to alt.binaries.pictures.aviation
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Default Boeing wins bid to build the Navy’s carrier-launched tanker drone - Boeing refuel drone MQ-25 Stingray (2).jpg


The US Navy has awarded Boeing an $805 million contract to construct four
prototypes of its design for the MQ-25 “Stingray." The uncrewed, carrier-based
tanker aircraft will help extend the range of the Navy’s future carrier air
wings and keep carriers themselves out of range of coastal defenses.

Boeing beat out Lockheed Martin and General Atomics for the contract. Northrop
Grumman—which built the Navy’s first carrier-based drone prototype , the X-47B
Unmanned Combat Air System-Demonstration (UCAS-D)—dropped out of the competition
last year. The prototype contract is the first step toward delivering “initial
operating capability,” a first production run of the drones, by 2024.

The MQ-25’s design requirements called for an aircraft capable of launching from
a carrier deck and delivering 14,000 pounds (6,300kg) of fuel to aircraft 500
nautical miles (926km) away. That capacity and range, along with the
low-observable shape of the drone, could essentially double the range of F/A-18
Super Hornet and F-35C Joint Strike Fighter attack missions. Eventually, Boeing
could deliver up to 72 Stingrays at a cost of $13 billion.

Announcing the award, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson said, “This
is an historic day... We will look back on this day and recognize that this
event represents a dramatic shift in the way we define warfighting requirements,
work with industry, integrate unmanned and manned aircraft, and improve the
lethality of the air wing.”

The refueling mission of the MQ-25 is a significant course correction from the
original goal of the Navy's Unmanned Carrier Launched Airborne Surveillance and
Strike (UCLASS) system, an autonomous strike aircraft capable of flying deep
into hostile airspace on its own or as a robotic wingman to crewed Navy F-35Cs.
The requirements for the UCLASS were never really nailed down, and the Navy
eventually re-focused carrier drone efforts on filling a role that no fighter
pilot fights for: the flying gas station.

The refueling mission is critical to the future of the Navy, particular in its
deterrence role in the Western Pacific. Chinese anti-ship ballistic missiles and
other defenses placed on man-made islands in the South China Sea could put
carriers at risk if their aircraft can’t operate at greater ranges. But there
have been hints that future modifications to robotic tanker designs could allow
them to carry weapons, too, as the technology required for them to take on that
role matures.


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