This is the moment the world’s first aerial refuelling operation between an unmanned tanker and a receiver aircraft is carried out between Boeings MQ-25 Stingray and a F/A-18 Super Hornet jet.
The unprecedented exercise was carried out by the US Navy at the MidAmerica Airport in Mascoutah in the state of Illinois last Friday (4th June).
The US Navy said in a statment: ‘MQ-25 T1 will greatly increase the range and endurance of the future carrier air wing – equipping our aircraft carriers with additional assets well into the future.’
Captain Chad Reed, program manager for the Navy’s Unmanned Carrier Aviation program, said: ‘Seeing the MQ-25 fulfilling its primary tasking today, fuelling a F/A-18, is a significant and exciting moment for the Navy.
He added: ‘It shows concrete progress toward realising MQ-25’s capabilities for the fleet.’
The MQ-25 T1 has a range of 930 kilometres (580 miles) when carrying 15,000 lbs of fuel, a wingspan of 23 metres (75 feet) and measures 16 metres (51 feet) in length.
The unmanned aircraft is powered by a Rolls-Royce AE 3007N turbofan engine delivering 4,500 kilogrammes (10,000 lbs) of thrust but its top speed has not been confirmed.
In the footage, the MQ-25 and the F/A-18 can be seen flying at extremely close proximity as the unmanned aircraft releases its refuelling hose.
The hose then attaches to the F/A-18 and the fuel is pumped from its Aerial Refuelling Store (ARS) into the fighter jets tank.
the Navy said that the Stingray remains in development. They said: ‘Testing with T1 will continue over the next several months to include flight envelope expansion, engine testing, and deck handling demonstrations.
‘The MQ-25 is foundational to the Navy’s Unmanned Campaign Framework and is the first step toward a future fleet augmented by unmanned systems to pace the evolving challenges of the 21st century.’