Drone refuels Navy fighter jet in midair

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A new Navy drone successfully refueled a fighter jet in midair on Friday — the first time a manned receiver aircraft has ever gotten gas from unmanned tanker — according to a press release.

The MQ-25 Stingray drone attached itself to a Navy F/A-18 Super Hornet that took off from MidAmerica Airport in Illinois, the site of a Boeing test program for the drones, officials said.

The fighter jet pilot tailed the drone at the same speed until the vehicle was able to attach its probe-and-drogue system to the plane’s tank and pump it full of fuel from a pod under its wing, according to the release.

“This flight lays the foundation for integration into the carrier environment, allowing for greater capability toward manned-unmanned teaming concepts,” said Rear Adm. Brian Corey, the program executive officer for Unmanned Aviation and Strike Weapons.

“MQ-25 will greatly increase the range and endurance of the future carrier air wing — equipping our aircraft carriers with additional assets well into the future.”

The refueling was the first time a manned aircraft had received fuel mid-flight from an unmanned drone.
The refueling was the first time a manned aircraft had received fuel mid-flight from an unmanned drone.

In addition to refueling airborne planes, the drone is expected to improve Naval intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance operations, officials said. Under the program, the Boeing-Navy drones are expected to free up manned tankers for other missions.

Tests on the tanker drone will continue over the next several months, before military officials hope to develop a fleet of 20 MQ-25A drones that will be based out of Naval Base Ventura County in California, according to Millitary.com.

“The MQ-25 is foundational to the Navy’s Unmanned Campaign Framework and is the first step toward a future fleet augmented by unmanned systems to pace the evolving challenges of the 21st century,” officials said.

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