La US Navy ha completado el primer ensayo operacional de su UAS de reabastecimiento de combustible de aeronaves, para operar en apoyo directo del componente aéreo de la flota en operaciones. El MQ-25 “Stingray” fue testeado en situaciones de despliegue operacional, desde un portaaviones de esa flota, verificando aspectos relacionados con las capacidades para cumplir su función de principal como reabastecedor, así como la integración con el portaaviones, en las etapas de despegue y amerizaje. La empresa BOEING es el contratista principal del programa “Stingray” y se estima que el sistema esté operativo para el 2025.
WASHINGTON: The Navy has completed the first operational demonstrations of an MQ-25 Stingray onboard the aircraft carrier George H.W. Bush (CVN 77), the service announced today, marking a major milestone for the highly-anticipated unmanned tanker program.
The demonstrations, completed in conjunction with both Boeing, the prime contractor on the program, and Lockheed Martin, was to evaluate both the aircraft and its ground control system, or GCS.
“There is no better way to determine the success of a carrier aircraft design and its integration into the air wing then to put that new aircraft through testing at sea,” said Capt. Chad Reed, the aircraft’s program manager.
Lockheed Martin was responsible for installing a prototype GCS inside the carrier’s unmanned aviation warfare center, a relatively new area being carved out of US aircraft carriers that will include controls both for the MQ-25 and other future unmanned systems.
“It gave the chance for leadership, test pilots, and future air vehicle operators to experience the look and feel for how the MQ-25 will operate onboard a carrier as well as inform the program office on items to consider for future UAWC layout development,” said Cmdr. Karl Orthner, an officer onboard CVN 77 responsible for the GCS.
The aircraft used for the demonstration was T1, Boeing’s prototype MQ-25 which has played an integral role in early testing for the program.
“The Navy gave us two key performance parameters for the program — aerial refueling and integration onto the carrier deck,” said Dave Bujold, Boeing MQ-25 program director, said in a statement today. “We’ve shown that the MQ-25 can meet both requirements, and we’ve done it years earlier than traditional acquisition programs.”
The successful testing is a win for the program office and Boeing, both of whom have been under very public pressure to keep the MQ-25 program on track for a fiscal 2025 initial operational capability goal. A key reason for that pressure revolves around the Navy’s strike fighter shortfall, which the successful deployment of the unmanned refueling drone is expected to help relieve.