The Navy on Thursday selected Boeing [BA] over teams led by General Atomics and Lockheed Martin [LMT] to develop and build the MQ-25 Stingray unmanned aerial tanker in a contract worth $805 million.
The Stingray program will primarily be used for Navy aerial refueling, based off aircraft carriers. It may potentially extend a carrier’s air wing’s range by 300-400 more miles. It also has a secondary use with limited intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) capabilities.
Last September a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report noted the Navy expects to invest almost $2.5 billion in MQ-25 through fiscal year 2022 and the service does not expect total development costs to reach over $5 billion.
The aircraft is required to be integrated with an aircraft carrier’s catapult and launch and recovery systems.
The Engineering and Manufacturing Development (EMD) contract was initially limited to General Atomics, Boeing, Lockheed Martin, and Northrop Grumman [NOC] (Defense Daily, Oct. 13, 2017).
However, only weeks after the bid request, Northrop Grumman dropped out of the fixed-price incentive competition and said it could not make a reasonable business case for the project that benefits both the customer and company (Defense Daily, Oct. 25, 2017).
Earlier, the four original competitors received one-year contracts in the fall of 2016 to refine MQ-25 concepts.
In April, Boeing revealed its own offering will use the Rolls-Royce AE 3007N engine, the same used on the Air Force’s Northrop Grumman [NOC] RQ-4 Global Hawk unmanned air system (UAS) (Defense Daily, April 6).
General Atomics revealed its seven main partners in its Stingray bid, including competitor Boeing.
GA said it would use Boeing’s Autonomous Systems unit to help fill some company holes like a good location at proximity to a Boeing facility to do final assembly, integration, and checkout. GA also said it would use Boeing’s experience in carrier suitability tests and act as a kind of final assist in design development and fielding of the MQ-25 (Defense Daily, Feb. 13).
Boeing insisted it created robust firewalls between the division that would help GA and the division creating its own MQ-25 competitor.
Boeing’s prototype, showed off to reporters at the company’s St. Louis facility in April, was built from 2012-2014 as part of the Navy’s former Unmanned Carrier-Launched Airborne Surveillance and Strike (UCLASS) program (Defense Daily, Feb. 12, 2016).
In April Boeing said it was preparing to fly its MQ-25 model shortly after the award.
Lockheed Martin was the only competitor that did not produce a prototype or stand-in representative aircraft by the April 2018 Navy League Sea Air Space expo. However, in April the company revealed that while its Stingray offering did not have a prototype, it would use the General Electric [GE] F404 engine (Defense Daily, April 10).
Rob Weiss, who recently served as vice president and general manager of Lockheed Martin’s Skunk Works development division, said their model is “purpose-built” rather than derivative of other designs and argued derivations leave other models compromised.