Boeing has begun ground tests of its prototype unmanned tanker designed for the U.S. Navy’s MQ-25 Stingray Unmanned Carrier Aviation Air System (UCAAS) competition, according to Aviation Week.
The T-1 prototype of new unmanned carrier-based tanker aircraft aslo named the MQ-25 Stingray, began the ground test at the at Lambert Field in St. Louis.
The U.S. Navy program requirements specify that the tanker be capable of passing 14,000 lbs. of fuel to other aircraft at a range of 500 nautical miles from the carrier.
Through its MQ-25 competition, the Navy is seeking 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 MQ-25 will also have to seamlessly integrate with a carrier’s catapult and launch and recovery systems.
According to the Popular Mechanics, Boeing sees MQ-25 as a critical contract to win for the future of its military aviation divisions. After losing the lucrative Joint Strike Fighter contract to Lockheed Martin (F-35) and the Long Range Strike Bomber contract to Northrop Grumman (B-21), Boeing is eager to win the MQ-25 unmanned carrier-based tanker, the Air Force T-X jet trainer, or both.