Boeing and the U.S. Navy successfully completed the first test flight of the MQ-25 unmanned aerial refueller.
The MQ-25 Stingray test asset, known as T1, with test registration as N234MQ completed the autonomous flight under the direction of Boeing test pilots operating from a ground control station at Mid America St. Louis Airport in Mascoutah, Ill.
The aircraft completed an autonomous taxi and takeoff and then flew a pre-determined route.
The test validated the aircraft’s basic flight functions and operations with the ground control station.
The MQ-25 will provide the Navy with a much-needed carrier-based unmanned aerial refuelling capability which is currently carried out by F/A-18E/F Super Hornet Strike Fighter Squadrons once embarked onboard the aircraft carrier.
“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 rapidly progress towards delivery of a game-changing capability for the carrier air wing and strike group commanders,” said the Navy’s Unmanned Carrier Aviation (PMA-268) Program Manager Capt. Chad Reed.
The Boeing-owned test asset is a predecessor to the engineering development model (EDM) aircraft and is being used for early learning and discovery to meet the goals of the U.S. Navy’s accelerated acquisition program.
Boeing will produce four EDM MQ-25 Stingray air vehicles for the U.S. Navy.
“Boeing has been delivering carrier aircraft to the Navy for almost 90 years,” said Don ‘BD’ Gaddis, a retired U.S. navy admiral who leads the refueling system program for Boeing’s Phantom Works technology organisation.
“Our expertise gives us confidence in our approach.”
T1 received its experimental airworthiness certificate from the FAA in September, verifying that the air vehicle meets the agency’s requirements for safe flight.
The MQ-25 will also have to seamlessly integrate with a carrier’s catapult and launch and recovery systems when testing continues at a later date. With testing of air to air refuelling of F-35C, F/A-18E/F and EA-18G aircraft to commence towards the end of the year.