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US Navy is getting closer to add an unmanned aerial refueling system

In December 2020, US Navy tested its MQ-25 Stingray successfully made its first flight with an aerial refueling store. It was carrying a Cobham ARS (Aerial Refuelling Store) under its left-wing for about 2.5 hours of flight. Insider reported. 

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“Boeing and the US Navy are flight testing the MQ-25 T1 test asset with an aerial refueling store (ARS).” Boeing told on its official website. 

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The system will enhance the range of carrier-based aircraft by almost 50%.

Boeing called it a ‘significant milestone informing the development of the unmanned aerial refueler’. The successful testing lasted for two and a half hours with an external fuel store. 

The system is currently used by the F/A-18s for air-to-air refueling. While the aim of the current testing of the system with the unmanned aircraft was to check the aerodynamics and performance of the aircraft with the ARS mounted under its wing. 

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According to Captain Chad Reed, “Having a test asset flying with an ARS gets us one big step closer in our evaluation of how MQ-25 will fulfill its primary mission in the fleet – aerial refueling.” He added, “T1 will continue to yield valuable early insights as we begin flying with F/A-18s and conduct deck handling testing aboard a carrier.”

According to an Insider report, Stingray is not the Navy’s first drone of this category but the smaller models like the ScanEagle, RQ-21 Blackjack, and MQ-8 Fire Scout have been in service on various Navy Vessels. 

Analysis:

The US Navy is one step closer to launching its unmanned aerial refueling system with the successful flight testing of an unmanned aircraft carrying a refueling store under its wing. 

After the successful launch of the system in the future, the Navy will also save money from its expensive manned aerial refueling systems that are extensively used in the past and still now in service.

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Sources:

  1. Boeing
  2. Cobhammission Systems
  3. Insider