Over four-and-a-half cautious hours, two U.S. Navy test pilots painstakingly approached and withdrew from the drone, approaching and withdrawing again, testing everything. Then it was time.
They connected their Missouri-made F/A-18F Super Hornet’s refueling probe to the drone’s hose-and-drogue fuel line a total of four times, twice for dry runs and twice taking on actual fuel: 300 pounds at 10,000 feet, then 25 pounds at 15,000 feet.
This exercise marked a milestone in the history of the Navy, as it was the first time the Missouri-made MQ-25 Stingray prototype successfully refueled a fighter jet in mid-air. The idea with MQ-25 is for the drones to serve as dedicated tankers, instead of the current situation, where fighter squadrons have to dedicate some of their jets to hauling gas instead of weapons.
“Stingray will be the world’s first operational carrier-based unmanned aircraft,” said Navy Program Manager, Capt. Chad Reed. “It will provide the Navy with invaluable hands-on experience of how to operate unmanned aircraft in the congested airspace and crowded deck of a supercarrier.”
Missouri talent builds the MQ-25 Stingray, the F/A-18 Super Hornet, EA-18 and F-15 fighter jets, the T-7A Red Hawk trainer jet, along with a huge array of military ordinance. In fact, defense contracting directly affects more than 600 industries and more than 25,000 businesses in Missouri, with Boeing leading the way.