Drones keep getting better and better. A drone from Boeing has just midair refueling easier than ever as it refueled a US fighter jet in the air for the very first time. This technology could help keep jets in the air for longer periods of time without having to land to refuel.
The drone refueled a Navy F/A-18 Super Hornet during a test flight last Friday. The drone known as the MQ-25 Stingray was approached by the jet from behind and keep as close as 20 feet to the drone. The hose was extended from the drone and connected the drogue at the end with the Super Hornet. This test flight made history as the MQ-25 becomes the first unmanned aircraft to refuel another aircraft.
According to Rear Admiral Brian Corey, who oversees the Program Executive Office for Unmanned Aviation and Strike Weapons, said that “This team of professionals was integral in the successful flight. Over the next few years, we will work side-by-side with Boeing to deliver this capability that will greatly enhance the future carrier air wing”. The US Navy posted a video of their flight on Twitter which you can view below.
Leanne Caret, president and CEO of Boeing Defense, Space & Security described the occasion as a history-making event, she said that “This history-making event is a credit to our joint Boeing and Navy team that is all-in on delivering MQ-25’s critical aerial refueling capability to the fleet as soon as possible. Their work is the driving force behind the safe and secure integration of unmanned systems in the immediate future of defense operations”. The test was conducted from the St. Louis Airport in Mascoutah, Illinois.
There are plans for furthers on an aircraft carrier later this year. The drone was able to transfer around 325 pounds of fuel during the 5 hours long test flight. Captain Chad Reed, program manager for the Navy’s Unmanned Carrier Aviation program office talked about the future of unmanned aircraft saying that “Unmanned systems alongside our traditional combatant force provide additional capability and capacity to give our warfighters the advantage needed to fight, win and deter potential aggressors. The MQ-25 is that first step towards a future where the carrier-based fleet is augmented by unmanned systems”.
Unmanned aviation technology is a major focus for US Navy as pilots are expensive to train. Each pilot is akin to a valuable asset so investing in unmanned tech is a way to make sure they stay alive. This drone tech will also free up manpower and fighters from refueling tasks.