Naval Air Systems Command awarded Boeing [BA] an $85 million modification to procure three more MQ-25A Stingray unmanned aerial refueling aircraft.
This modification exercises contract options to procure three more MQ-25 “System Demonstration Test Articles.”
The Navy plans to use the MQ-25A primarily for aircraft carrier aircraft refueling, freeing up F/A-18s currently used as tankers. The service plans to eventually buy 72 aircraft total.
These new aircraft are expected to be ready by August 2024. The Navy previously said it is targeting Initial Operational Capability (IOC) for the unmanned tanker by 2024, five years after awarding the initial engineering and manufacturing development (EMD) model.
IOC was originally set for FY 2026 but the Navy pushed that up to 2024.
Work on the new MQ-25 test article aircraft will mostly occur in St. Louis (52 percent); Indianapolis (12 percent); and various other locations in the continental U.S. and Canada.
Boeing noted this award is an option from the original $805 million EMD contract in 2018 to design, develop, build, test and verify the first four MQ-25s (Defense Daily, Aug. 30, 2018).
“We’re honored to have the Navy’s confidence in our system design and performance that is evident from this additional order,” Dave Bujold, Boeing’s MQ-25 program director, said in a statement.
“This order establishes uninterrupted production of the first MQ-25 aircraft and lines up with the Navy’s MQ-25 test and training plans for fleet introduction,” Bujold added.
Boeing conducted its first flight test of its MQ-25 test asset, named T-1, last September. (Defense Daily, Sept. 20, 2019).
Last year the company said it planned to use T-1 for 18 months of testing while it worked on the EMD models. Boeing argued this will allow it to plug in the latest lessons and software form the T-1 into the first EMD aircraft once it is ready (Defense Daily, April 29, 2019).
At the time of award, $63.5 million in FY 2020 Navy research, development, test and evaluations funds were being obligated, with none expiring at the end of this fiscal year.