The US Navy and Boeing declared on September 19, 2019 the first flying of the MQ-25 Stingray test asset from MidAmerica St. Louis Airport in Mascoutah, Illinois, which is nearby to Scott Air Force Base.
A drone designed to be the first carrier-launched independent Unmanned Aerial Vehicle to be united in a Carrier Air Wing.
The Boeing-owned test asset, known as T1 (Tail 1) and bearing the civilian registration N234MQ, accomplished the independent two-hour flight under the administration of Boeing test pilots functioning from their ground control station. According to the official statement, the aircraft completed an FAA-certified autonomous taxi and takeoff and then flew a planned out route to authenticate the aircraft’s basic flight operations and functions with the ground control station.
Navy’s Unmanned Carrier Aviation (PMA-268) Program Manager, Captain Chad Reed, declared: “Today’s flight is an exciting and noteworthy milestone for our program and the Navy. The flight of this test asset two years before our first MQ-25 arrives signifies the first giant step in a series of early learning prospects that are helping us move toward delivery of a game-changing capability for the strike group commanders and carrier air wing.”
This first test asset is being used for early progress before the production of four Engineering Development Model (EDM) MQ-25s under an $805 million agreement given in a Maritime Accelerated Acquisition (MAA) program in August 2018, which targets to deliver mission-critical capabilities to the U.S. Navy fleet as quickly as possible.
According to Boeing, T1 received the experimental air safety certificate from the Federal Aviation Administration previously this month. Testing of this first development asset will carry on over the next years to advance early learning and discovery that progresses software development and significant systems, before the delivery of the first EDM aircraft in FY2021 and backing of a planned Initial Operational Capability (IOC) for 2024.
The MQ-25 Stingray will be the first functional carrier-based UAV, made to provide an aerial refuelling ability and Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR), and the second UAV to work from an aircraft carrier, after the Northrop Grumman X-47B Pegasus that was tried both alone (2013) and together with manned aircraft (2014) from the USS George H.W. Bush (CVN-77) and the USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN-71).
The incorporation of the Stingray into the Carrier Air Wing will ease the stress on the F/A-18E Super Hornets that presently perform buddy-tanker missions in support of the aircraft carrier’s launch and recovery operations, leaving them accessible for operational tasking.
This will definitely be a game-changer for long jet flights, as it’ll reduce cost, safer, be more stealthy and enable much longer flights.