Tuesday, June 25, 2024

For the First Time Ever, the U.S. Air Force is Using Drones to Refuel Aircraft Mid-flight.

The U.S. Air Force and Boeing achieved a significant milestone by using drones for Air-to-Air refueling. During the successful test, the MQ-25 T1 test asset refueled another aircraft mid-flight. The MQ-25 T1 serves as a tanker, extending the range of carrier Air wing and optimizing combat strike fighters. It has undergone 25 test flights to evaluate its aerodynamics and air refueling systems. By the year end, the test asset will be deployed to an aircraft carrier in Virginia for further testing.

In 2018, Boeing was awarded a contract by the Defense Department to develop this advanced aircraft. This achievement represents a remarkable leap in unmanned aerial capabilities. Additionally, it offers exciting possibilities for future military applications and advancements in technology.

Moreover, in a historic moment, the U.S. Navy achieved its first-ever aerial refueling between a manned aircraft and an unmanned tanker. During the test at MidAmerica Airport in Mascoutah, Illinois, the MQ-25 Stingray test vehicle successfully executed its inaugural midair tanking mission with a Navy F/A-18E-F Super Hornet. The demonstration showcased the unmanned tanker’s proficiency in using standard probe and drogue aerial refueling. Notably, the MQ-25 T1 test vehicle shares the same outer mold line and engine as the MQ-25, facilitating both aerodynamic testing and aerial refueling practice.

As part of the testing program, the first seven MQ-25 vehicles will perform over-ocean flights from an aircraft carrier starting in 2023. The Navy is committed to ensuring the MQ-25 can safely conduct aerial refueling under various conditions and flight profiles. Moreover, the integration holds immense potential for future operations.

By augmenting the carrier-based fleet with unmanned systems, the MQ-25 takes the Navy one step closer to achieving operational flexibility and increased lethality. The Navy aims to achieve initial operational capability for the MQ-25 Stingray program by 2025.

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