Boeing Testing Unmanned Refueling Aircraft

The Navy issued its final request for proposals in October, and manufacturers' proposals are due Jan. 3.

Boeing posted a photo Dec. 19 that shows for the first time its unmanned aircraft system for refueling U.S. Navy jets operating from aircraft carriers. The company said its UAS is completing engine runs before heading to the flight ramp for deck handling demonstrations next year, and its announcement included a Boeing photo by Eric Shindelbower of the aircraft.

Boeing announced Dec. 19, 2017, that the MQ-25 unmanned aircraft system, shown here in a Boeing photo by Eric Shindelbower, is completing engine runs. The Navy's MQ-25 competition is searching for unmanned refueling capabilities that would extend the combat range of deployed Boeing F/A-18 Super Hornet, Boeing EA-18G Growler, and Lockheed Martin F-35C fighters; the refueling aircraft would have to seamlessly integrate with a carrier's catapult and launch and recovery systems, according to the Boeing announcement.

The Navy issued its final request for proposals in October, and manufacturers' proposals are due Jan. 3.

"Boeing has been delivering carrier aircraft to the Navy for almost 90 years," said Don Gaddis, a retired admiral who leads the refueling system program for Boeing's Phantom Works technology organization. "Our expertise gives us confidence in our approach. We will be ready for flight testing when the engineering and manufacturing development contract is awarded."

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