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Science & Technology

Drone refuels US fighter jet for first time ever

June 8, 2021 | Comment icon 11 comments

The procedure went smoothly. Image Credit: YouTube / Boeing
An unmanned tanker drone successfully refueled a fighter jet in mid-air during a test flight on Friday.
The impressive feat, which involved a Navy F/A-18 Super Hornet, demonstrated the significant potential of unmanned tanker drones and could mark the beginning of the end for traditional piloted tanker aircraft.

During the test flight, the drone - a Boeing-built device named MQ-25 Stingray - maintained its altitude and speed as the hose extended and the two aircraft briefly linked up to exchange fuel.

The test was carried out from the MidAmerica St. Louis Airport in Mascoutah, Illinois.

In total, 325lbs of fuel was transferred during the flight which lasted 4.5 hours.
"Unmanned systems alongside our traditional combatant force provide additional capability and capacity to give our warfighters the advantage needed to fight, win and deter potential aggressors," said Captain Chad Reed of the US Navy's Unmanned Carrier Aviation program office.

"The MQ-25 is that first step towards a future where the carrier-based fleet is augmented by unmanned systems."

The US Navy also posted up a Tweet describing the mission's success as "aviation history".

"This flight lays the foundation for integration into the carrier environment, allowing for greater capability toward manned-unmanned teaming concepts," the post reads.

Source: CBS News | Comments (11)

Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #2 Posted by and then 1 year ago
Funny, I didn't notice that. Perhaps the Hornet had to adjust to the drone but I can't imagine that ever being a superior means of refueling.
Comment icon #3 Posted by Hammerclaw 1 year ago
Maybe not a real photo. Look at the light and shadows on the plane compared to the drone. Thesecond below looks more convincing. The Drone must be in a holding pattern while refueling.
Comment icon #4 Posted by DreadLordAvatar 1 year ago
Old technology
Comment icon #5 Posted by Jon the frog 1 year ago
Don't know the fuel payload of that thing ? It doesnt look a lot more than buddy refueling from another f-18..
Comment icon #6 Posted by and then 1 year ago
How so? Who else is already using the concept?
Comment icon #7 Posted by and then 1 year ago
Good question that the piece didn't expand on. The drone looks to be at least 50% larger than the F-18 and is basically an engine, airframe, and fuel tank. I think it's an interesting concept and I'm pretty sure they'll use it on missions where there is no possibility of using conventional tanking for whatever reason. It'd be nice to see what they envision. If the drone has significant ability to loiter safely near a mission way-point it would be the dream of a certain middle east air force I can think of...
Comment icon #8 Posted by Jon the frog 1 year ago
Looked a bit about numbers, the mq-25 is to be able to deliver 15,000 lb (6,800 kg) of fuel, a f-18f hornet with buddy refueling tanks payload of four 460 usg wing tanks can deliver about 12500 lb of fuel if he don't use the fuel in his internaltanks. Well it could be agood improvement because they cost probably less per hours than a f-18f with two pilots... and the mk25can loiter probablya lot more per fuel used.
Comment icon #9 Posted by and then 1 year ago
This seemed to fit here... https://interestingengineering.com/navy-drone-ship-completes-5000-mile-trip-autonomously?_source=newsletter&_campaign=a0Jdjq9p7M5Eg&_uid=MYerkzpWaO&_h=04452d0c26779c81966b4e238f2eb3f3c2659916&_nt=8o6Q1W&utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=mailing&utm_campaign=Newsletter-11-06-2021
Comment icon #10 Posted by Jon the frog 1 year ago
Terminator movies are not a long shot... AI will be the best for warmongers...
Comment icon #11 Posted by fred_mc 1 year ago
I think in the future the fighter will be unmanned too, so a tanker drone will refuel a fighter drone.

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