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Drone refuels US fighter jet for first time ever


Posted on Tuesday, 8 June, 2021 | Comment icon 10 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 (10)


Tags: Drone


Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #1 Posted by ChrLzs on 8 June, 2021, 1:45
Odd - both photos released show the drone and the aircraft significantly banking...  That seems very odd when doing a maneuver that requires high precision steadiness from the two aircraft - why would they not be in straight level flight?
Comment icon #2 Posted by and then on 8 June, 2021, 2:20
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 on 8 June, 2021, 9:10
Maybe not a real photo. Look at the light and shadows on the plane compared to the drone. The second below looks more convincing. The Drone must be in a holding pattern while refueling.
Comment icon #4 Posted by DreadLordAvatar on 8 June, 2021, 17:43
Old technology 
Comment icon #5 Posted by Jon the frog on 9 June, 2021, 0:55
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 on 9 June, 2021, 1:11
How so?  Who else is already using the concept?
Comment icon #7 Posted by and then on 9 June, 2021, 1:18
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 on 9 June, 2021, 16:22
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 internal tanks. Well it could be a good improvement because they cost probably less per hours than a f-18f with two pilots... and the mk25 can loiter probablya lot more per fuel used.
Comment icon #9 Posted by and then on 11 June, 2021, 23:11
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 on 11 June, 2021, 23:43
Terminator movies are not a long shot... AI will be the best for warmongers...


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