Boeing [BA] unveiled its competitor for the MQ-25 Stingray unmanned carrier tanker program on Tuesday, revealing the first photo of the aircraft.

The MQ-25 is geared for aircraft carrier-based aerial refueling to extend the combat range of the Boeing F/A-18 E/F Super Hornets and EA-18G Growlers, and Lockheed Martin [LMT] F-35C fighters.

Boeing's offering for the MQ-25 Stingray unmanned aircraft carrier-based tanker program. (Photo: Boeing)
Boeing’s offering for the MQ-25 Stingray unmanned aircraft carrier-based tanker program. (Photo: Boeing)

In the October final request for proposals (RFP) the Navy said its refueling role will allow the Navy “to make better use of our combat strike fighters and extend the range of our aircraft carriers.”

That RFP was originally limited to four competitors: Boeing, Lockheed Martin, General Atomics, and Northrop Grumman [NOC]. Proposals are due on Jan. 3, 2018.

Weeks after the bid request release, Northrop Grumman announced in an earnings call it will not bid for the MQ-25 because it could not make an attractive offer that also represented a reasonable business proposition (Defense Daily, Oct. 25).

Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) Commander Vice Adm. Mike Shomaker said earlier this year that the MQ-25 is likely to extend air wings by 300-400 miles beyond their current capacity (Defense Daily, Oct. 13).

The aircraft is required to integrate with the carrier’s catapult and launch and recovery systems.

Boeing said its offering is completing engine runs before moving to the flight ramp for deck handling demonstrations in early 2018.

Don Gaddis, head of the refueling system program at Boeing’s Phantom Works, highlighted the company’s many decades of Navy carrier aircraft deliveries.

“Our expertise gives us confidence in our approach. We will be ready for flight testing when the engineering and manufacturing development contract is awarded,” he said in a statement.