The U.S. Navy exercised contract options with Boeing worth $84.7 million to buy three MQ-25A Stingray unmanned aerial refueling tankers as part of a modification to a previously-awarded fixed-price-incentive-firm-target contract. The three MQ-25s aerial refueling drone’s System Demonstration Test covered by the contract options are to be completed by August 2024. For more than a decade, the U.S. Navy has conducted a development process to build what will be the Navy’s first unmanned carrier-based tankers. In 2018, Boeing beat Lockheed Martin and General Atomics to land the $805 million contract to build the first four MQ-25As.
Boeing MQ-25A Stingray takes its first flight on Sept. 19, 2019. The MQ-25A Stingray “T1” test airframe flew for two hours, flying in and out of MidAmerica Airport, located next to Scott Air Force Base outside of St. Louis. Boeing and Navy officials described the weather as perfect for flying as the T1 gathered performance data for Boeing and the Navy to review. Boeing previously announced plans to hoist the T1 onto an aircraft carrier and conduct deck handling tests this year. Boeing plans to shift to using the first EDM airframes for testing in 2021. The first carrier-based tests and sea trials are expected to occur in 2022 and 2023.
The Boeing MQ-25 Stingray is an aerial refueling drone that resulted from the Carrier-Based Aerial-Refueling System (CBARS) program, which grew out of the earlier Unmanned Carrier-Launched Airborne Surveillance and Strike (UCLASS) program. The Boeing MQ-25 Stingray design is powered by one Rolls-Royce AE 3007N turbofan engine delivering 10,000 lb (4,500 kg) of thrust; it is a variant of the engine used to power the Navy’s MQ-4C Triton. The aircraft is less stealthy than flying wing UAVs. However, it still features a stealthy fuselage shaping, flush inlet to shield engine blades from radar and V-tail.