If the US Navy isn’t careful, its new unmanned tanker drone could face a 3-year delay

WASHINGTON — The US Navy could face a three-year delay in testing of the MQ-25 Stingray carrier-based tanking drone if it doesn’t get its designated test ships through the required modernizations on time, a possibility the Navy said was remote.

Two carriers — Carl Vinson and George H.W. Bush — have limited windows to complete the installation of unmanned aircraft control stations, and if operational commitments intervene it could create significant issues for the program, according to Navy officials and a government watchdog report.

“Program officials stated that, among other things, the Navy’s potential inability to maintain its schedule commitments could require modifications to the contract that would impact the fixed-price terms,” the Government Accountability Office reported. “Specifically, the Navy faces limited flexibility to install MQ-25 control centers on aircraft carriers.


Stingray Takes to the Air

Boeing has announced the successful first flight of the MQ-25 Stingray. The first test example (T1) of the unmanned aerial refueler for the U.S. Navy made a successful two-hour flight from MidAmerica St. Louis Airport in Mascoutah, Illinois, on September 19.

During the sortie, T1 taxied and took off autonomously before flying a pre-determined route and recovering. In the course of the mission, basic flight and control functions were validated, as well as communications and control from a ground station. Although the flight was conducted autonomously, Boeing test pilots directed the mission from the ground throughout.


Landmark Navy drone deal offers Boeing potential for a new defense franchise

Boeing’s late-summer victory in the bidding war to develop an unmanned refueling tanker for the U.S. Navy offers far more than an initial $805 million in revenue.

It gives the manufacturer a new aircraft-development program that has the potential to become a franchise business, revitalizing a defense unit that relies heavily on production of older models after losing the lucrative F-35 fighter to Lockheed Martin and the B-21 long-range bomber to Northrop Grumman.

“It’s a big research and development program, and a big win within unmanned systems,” Roman Schweizer, an analyst with Cowen Washington Research Group, told the Washington Examiner. “Northrop Grumman, General Atomics and probably Lockheed, in the classified realm, have been the 800-pound gorillas, and this gives Boeing a big anchor in that business.”

Contract Imminent for Unmanned Carrier-Based Tanker Program

A program that could revolutionize maritime warfare is about to enter its next phase as the Navy moves to launch unmanned tankers off of aircraft carriers within the next decade.

Once fielded, the MQ-25 Stingray will provide the service with a ?robust, organic refueling capability to make better use of Navy combat strike fighters and extend the range of the carrier air wing with an increased fuel offload capability,? Capt. Chad Reed, unmanned carrier aviation program manager told National Defense in an email.

Naval Air Systems Command is expected to award a fixed-price engineering, manufacturing and development contract to one of three competitors for the program ? Boeing, General Atomics Aeronautical Systems or Lockheed Martin ? by the end of this summer, less than a year after proposals were submitted.