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Drone refuels Navy fighter jet for the first time

Drone refuels Navy fighter jet for the first time
© U.S. Navy

An unmanned aircraft has refueled a Navy fighter jet in midair for the first time, the service said Monday.

The Boeing-made MQ-25 Stingray drone briefly connected to the Navy F/A-18 Super Hornet via hose and transferred fuel to the fighter while flying over the Midwest on Friday, according to a Navy statement.

The two aircraft, which had taken off from MidAmerica St. Louis Airport in Mascoutah, Ill., flew as close as 20 feet from each other during the maneuver, Boeing said in a separate release.

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The Navy called the event a “significant and exciting moment” as the service “shows concrete progress toward realizing MQ-25’s capabilities for the fleet.”

Both the Navy and Boeing said they plan to conduct additional tests on an aircraft carrier later this year.

"This is our mission, an unmanned aircraft that frees our strike fighters from the tanker role, and provides the Carrier Air Wing with greater range, flexibility and capability," Capt. Chad Reed, program manager for the Navy's Unmanned Carrier Aviation program office, said in the service statement.

The Navy plans to use the test flight data to analyze whether any adjustments need to be made, Reed added.