In the U.S. Navy’s second unmanned tanking flight since June using the Boeing [BA] MQ-25A T1 test aircraft, the latter refueled a Northrop Grumman [NOC] E-2D Advanced Hawkeye on Aug. 18 at MidAmerica Airport in Mascoutah, Ill., the service and Boeing said on Aug. 19.
“Once operational, the MQ-25 will refuel every receiver-capable platform including E-2,” Navy Capt. Chad Reed, the Navy’s Unmanned Carrier Aviation (PMA-268) program manager, said in an Aug. 19 statement. “This flight keeps us on a fast track to getting the [MQ-25] Stingray out to the fleet where its refueling capability will greatly increase the range and operational flexibility of the carrier air wing and strike group.”
The Navy said it upgraded the E-2D with the ability to be refueled in 2019.
The MQ-25A test plane conducted the first unmanned tanker to manned aircraft refueling operation with a Navy F/A-18E/F Super Hornet by Boeing on June 4 (Defense Daily, June 7).
The Navy plans to establish two U.S.-based MQ-25A squadrons, VUQ-11 and VUQ-12, which will deploy detachments of five planes each to E-2D squadrons on aircraft carriers. Later this year, the Navy is to field the MQ-25A fleet replacement squadron, VUQ-10, to start training operators and maintainers of the aircraft.
Over the next few months, the Navy plans to take the T-1 to an unspecified aircraft carrier to conduct deck handling, flight envelope expansion, and engine testing before Boeing delivers the MQ-25A engineering and manufacturing development (EMD) aircraft next year..
During the six-hour T1/E-2D refueling flight on Aug. 18, “Navy E-2D pilots from Air Test and Evaluation Squadron Two Zero (VX) 20 approached T1, performed formation evaluations, wake surveys, drogue tracking and plugs with the MQ-25 test asset at 220 knots calibrated airspeed (KCAS) and 10,000 feet,” the Navy said. “This test allows the program to analyze the aerodynamic interaction of the two aircraft. The 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.”
Boeing said that it is building two MQ-25A airframes for ground-based testing and the first two of seven EMD MQ-25As based on T1.