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US Navy MQ-25 completes first E-2D aerial refuelling flight

19th August 2021 - 14:14 GMT | by The Shephard News Team in London

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The MQ-25 Stingray refuels to a E-2D Advanced Hawkeye (Photo: Boeing)

NAVAIR has announced more test success for the MQ-25 Stingray unmanned refueller.

The US Navy (USN) has successfully completed a first refuelling flight between the MQ-25 Stingray test asset, T1, and an E-2D Advanced Hawkeye.

The flight, which lasted six hours and took place at MidAmerica Airport in Mascoutah, Illinois, saw the UAV transfer fuel to the AEW&C aircraft and USN pilots from Air Test and Evaluation Squadron Two Zero (VX) 20 approach T1, perform formation evaluations, wake surveys, drogue tracking and plugs with the MQ-25 at 220kts, according to a 19 August NAVAIR news release.

‘This test allows the program to analyze the aerodynamic interaction of the two aircraft,’ noted the release.

‘The [programme] team can then determine if any adjustments to guidance and control are required and make those software updates early, with no impact to the developmental test schedule.’

The E-2D refuelling test follows on from the MQ-25 refuelling a F/A-18 Super Hornet on 7 June 2021.

Future MQ-25 test plans include envelope expansion, engine testing and deck handling demonstrations aboard an USN aircraft carrier, ahead of MQ-25 EMD aircraft being delivered in 2022.

NAVAIR also explained that, the ‘Stingray’s ‘persistent mission tanking coupled with the E-2D’s aerial refueling capability will transform the Hawkeye from an over-the-horizon airborne early warning platform limited to shorter missions in the carrier environment, to an asset capable of providing comprehensive battle management for extended periods from anywhere within the battlespace’.

The USN expects to stand up Unmanned Carrier-Launched Multi Role Squadron (VUQ) 10, ‘later this year’ before two MQ-25A squadrons, VUQ-11 and 12 are stood up thereafter. 

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