Boeing MQ 25 Drone Conducts Worlds First Unmanned Aerial Refuelling With US Fighter Jet

This is the moment the world’s first aerial refuelling operation between an unmanned tanker and a receiver aircraft is carried out between Boeings MQ-25 Stingray and a F/A-18 Super Hornet jet.

The unprecedented exercise was carried out by the US Navy at the MidAmerica Airport in Mascoutah in the state of Illinois last Friday (4th June).

In a statement obtained by Newsflash, the US Navy said: “MQ-25 T1 will greatly increase the range and endurance of the future carrier air wing – equipping our aircraft carriers with additional assets well into the future.”

Aerial refueling operations between a manned receiver aircraft and unmanned tanker from MidAmerica Airport in Mascoutah, Illinois in the United States on 4th of June 2021. (U.S. Navy/Newsflash)

Capt. Chad Reed, program manager for the Navy’s Unmanned Carrier Aviation program, said: “Seeing the MQ-25 fulfilling its primary tasking today, fuelling a F/A-18, is a significant and exciting moment for the Navy”

He added: “It shows concrete progress toward realizing MQ-25’s capabilities for the fleet.”

The MQ-25 T1 has a range of 930 kilometres (580 miles) when carrying 15,000 lbs of fuel, a wingspan of 23 metres (75 feet) and measures 16 metres (51 feet) in length.

The unmanned tanker in MidAmerica Airport in Mascoutah, Illinois in the United States on the 4th June 2021. (U.S. Navy/Newsflash)

The unmanned aircraft is powered by a Rolls-Royce AE 3007N turbofan engine delivering 4,500 kilogrammes (10,000 lbs) of thrust but its top speed has not been confirmed.

In the footage, the MQ-25 and the F/A-18 can be seen flying at extremely close proximity as the unmanned aircraft releases its refuelling hose.

The hose then attaches to the F/A-18 and the fuel is pumped from its Aerial Refuelling Store (ARS) into the fighter jets tank.

The unmanned tanker taking off from MidAmerica Airport in Mascoutah in Illinois in the United States on the 4th June 2021. (U.S. Navy/Newsflash)

For now, the Stingray remains in development and the Navy said: “Testing with T1 will continue over the next several months to include flight envelope expansion, engine testing, and deck handling demonstrations”

The Navy concluded their statement by saying: “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. “

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