Story at a glance

  • The Navy made history on Friday with the first unmanned drone refueling of a piloted jet midair.
  • The MQ-25 Stingray drone refueled a manned F/A-18 Super Hornet fighter jet midflight in Illinois.
  • In the future, it’s hoped that the drone can be used for Naval intelligence through surveillance and reconnaissance missions.

A newly developed Navy drone made history by refueling a fighter jet in midair on Friday, marking the first time an unmanned tanker fueled a manned aircraft. 

According to a press release, after taking off from MidAmerica Airport in Illinois, where Boeing is testing the drones, the Navy’s F/A-18 Super Hornet fighter jet pilot followed the MQ-25 Stingray drone at the same speed until the drone could attach to the jet’s tank. After it attached to the jet’s fuel pod under its wing, the drone pumped the fuel before disengaging. 


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The military will continue to test the tanker drone over a period of several months, at which point it hopes to create a fleet of 20 MQ-25A drones. A future goal is to eventually hone the technology, allowing the drone to be used for Naval intelligence through surveillance and reconnaissance missions.

“This flight lays the foundation for integration into the carrier environment, allowing for greater capability toward manned-unmanned teaming concepts,” said Rear Adm. Brian Corey, the program executive officer for Unmanned Aviation and Strike Weapons.

“MQ-25 will greatly increase the range and endurance of the future carrier air wing — equipping our aircraft carriers with additional assets well into the future.”


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Published on Jun 09, 2021