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Boeing completes historic unmanned air-to-air refuelling test

10th June 2021 - 12:29 GMT | by The Shephard News Team

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The Boeing MQ-25 T1 test asset transfers fuel to a U.S. Navy F/A-18 Super Hornet June 4, marking the first time in history that an unmanned aircraft has refuelled another aircraft. (Photo: Boeing)

Boeing and the US Navy have demonstrated the first successful test of unmanned air-to-air refuelling.

On 4 June, Boeing and the US Navy have demonstrated air-to-air refuelling using an unmanned aircraft for the first time in history.

This landmark achievement occurred after 25 T1 flights, testing both aircraft and aerial refuelling store (ARS) aerodynamics across the flight envelope, as well as extensive simulations of aerial refuelling using MQ-25 digital models.

During the test flight, MQ-25 T1 extended the hose and drogue from its USN-issued ARS and safely transferred jet fuel to a USN F/A-18 Super Hornet.

The F/A-18 test pilots flew in close formation behind MQ-25 to ensure performance and stability prior to refuelling, a manoeuvre that required as little as 20 feet of separation between the MQ-25 and the F/A-18 refuelling probe.

Both aircraft were flying at operationally relevant speeds and altitudes.

According to Shephard Defence Insight, the MQ-25 Stingray is a carrier-based, long-endurance, UAV that will conduct aerial refuelling as a primary mission and provide ISR capability as a secondary mission.

As Shephard previously reported, there is still much work to go. The navy faces limited flexibility to install MQ-25 control centres on aircraft carriers. If the installation window is missed, a three-year development delay would occur. You can read more here.

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