Drones Will Be Used for Refueling Fighter Jets by 2024

Boeing has recently secured a multi-million dollar contract from the US Navy to deliver drones that can refuel fighter jets mid-flight. The drones have been named MQ-25A Stingray. This latest development aims to solve one of the main problems the US Navy has been trying to tackle for a while: how to efficiently refuel their fleet of fighter jets while in flight.

Boeing Defense, Space, and Security won the contract to test, design, develop, deliver a group of four MQ-25A Stingray drones.  They will be integrated into the carrier air wing and offer seamless refueling capabilities. Under this contract, which is worth $805 million to start with, Boeing has promised to deliver the MQ-25As by 2024.

The Boeing’s defense arm has been through a few difficult years and this contract is promising. Some analysts claim that the market for long-endurance, medium-altitude drones will be as much as $22.2 billion by 2026. According to the Teal Group, it’s currently the 2nd largest market segment when it comes to Air Force technology, whereas the largest market being unmanned air combat vehicles.

According to the program manager of Navy Unmanned Carrier Aviation, Captain Chad Reed, stated “Having an unmanned aerial refueling technology will extend the operational range of the carrier air wing. It will also help us make better use of our navy combat strike fighters and other aircraft that are currently being used for aerial refueling missions. Plus, it will significantly reduce the human risk factor that comes with such missions,” he claimed.

“Once fully operational, we will use the MQ-25A Stingray as the world’s first unmanned, carrier-based aircraft that will provide the US Air Force with a reliable organic refueling capability,” he continued to explain. “If the MQ-25A are successfully delivered and integrated with the carrier air wing, it will be a groundbreaking moment for the future of naval aviation,” claims Reed. “It’s certainly the first step towards integrating unmanned aircraft into the carrier air wing’s operations and it will provide unparalleled capabilities to the fleet of the warfighters”.

The deal has been touted as “historic” by John Richardson, Chief of Naval Operations Admiral. “When we will look back on this day, we will surely recognize the fact that this event (announcement of the contract) has caused a tremendous shift in the way we determine warfighting requirements, get to work with the tech industry, and integrate both manned and unmanned aircraft together, while improving the lethality of the carrier air wing, all at the same time.”

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