By: Megan Eckstein The Boeing MQ-25 T1 test asset transfers fuel to a U.S. Navy F/A-18 Super Hornet on June 4, marking the first time in history that an unmanned aircraft has refueled another aircraft. The MQ-25 Stingray will assume the carrier-based tanking role currently performed by F/A18s, allowing for better use of the combat strike fighters and helping extend the range of the carrier air wing. (Boeing) WASHINGTON – The U.S. Navy conducted its firstever aerial refueling between a manned aircraft and an unmanned tanker on June 4, with a Boeingowned MQ-25 Stingray test vehicle performing its first midair tanking mission with a Navy F/A-18E-F Super Hornet. The test mission out of MidAmerica Airport in Mascoutah, Illinois, proved the unmanned tanker could successfully use the Navy’s standard probeand-drogue aerial refueling method. Once fielded, the MQ-25 will operate from aircraft carriers, refueling the air wing operating at sea and relieving the Super Hornet fleet of the tanking mission, which the Navy has said can at times account for more than one-third of Super Hornet flight hours during carrier air wing operations. The two F-18 aviators from Air Test and Evaluation Squadron 23 were in radio contact with the MQ-25 operator, who was controlling the unmanned aerial vehicle from a ground control station. Once the operator deployed the hose and drogue from the UAV, the Super Hornet came in for an even closer look, Bujold said, before backing up and connecting for the first time with the UAV. The Super Hornet first did a “dry connect,” where all the aerial refueling gear between the two aircraft attached but no fuel was passed from the tanker to the fighter. On the second connection, 300 pounds of fuel was passed from the MQ-25′s Aerial Refueling Store pod to the Super Hornet. Bujold said this happened while the aircraft were flying at operationally relevant speeds at about 10,000 feet altitude. Another smaller refueling was made at 16,000 feet, passing 25 pounds of fuel to the Super Hornet. Several additional dry connects were made as well, ensuring that the procedures were good for connecting and disconnecting the gear during a flight. In total, Bujold said, the mission lasted about four and a half hours, and the two aircraft were connected for dry or wet connects for more than 10 minutes total of that time. A total of 325 pounds of fuel was passed from the MQ-25 to the Super Hornet. “Really the big deal on Friday was building this trust and confidence and understanding of how it’s going to be. But the really next step … is to get to the point where we are a trusted partner in the combat mission,” Bujold continued, saying that meant being able to handle any flight profile the receiving aircraft needed to fly, and ensuring the MQ-25 could operate with other aircraft in the carrier air wing, too, including the E-2D Advanced Hawkeye. HBR has been told that this news comes along with a large facility that will be built near Mid America Airport that will employee thousands! We will continue to share updates as they become available. Page 14

15 Publizr Home

You need flash player to view this online publication