Thanks to the MQ-25 Stingray.
U.S. Navy Aircraft Carriers (And F-35s) Will Soon Become Even More Dangerous
The Navy’s first-of-its-kind carrier-based drone has been performing advanced ground testing exercises in preparation for its first flight as soon as this year, a process intended to introduce new attack tactics for the service and substantially improve the “strike” reach of aircraft carriers.
The promise of this emerging refueler drone, which will enable F-35Cs and F/A-18s to nearly double their attack range, is expected to bear prominently upon the Navy’s future plans regarding carrier designs, strategies and new technologies. Demonstrator aircraft of the Boeing-built MQ-25 have been undergoing a range of tests, and Boeing developers have announced that accelerated progress with the aircraft may speed up initial flight-testing. Last year, the Navy chose Boeing for the next phase of development of the new drone.
This testing and preparation phase, described by Navy developers as an Engineering, Manufacturing and Development stage, will begin with carefully executed ground testing. This testing will likely seek to closely replicate the fast-changing, difficult conditions which complicate carrier landing to the largest degree possible.
“The government/industry team are working closely to manage test schedule and expects to be in flight test by 2021 and meet initial operational capability by 2024,” Capt. Chad Reed, MQ-25 Program Manager, told Warrior Maven in a written statement.
While flights for this new EMD phase of development are slated for 2021, Navy officials tell Warrior the first flight will, in fact, be this year.