After its first successful “live” refuelling flight in June, the Boeing-owned MQ-25TM T1, completed a second carrier-based aircraft, this time refueling a Navy E-2D Hawkeye, the newest variant of the E-2 platform which was upgraded with an aerial refueling capability in 2019.
During the six-hour flight, Navy E-2D pilots performed formation evaluations, wake surveys, drogue tracking and plugs with the MQ-25 at 220 knots calibrated airspeed (KCAS) and 10,000 feet. This test allows the program to analyze the aerodynamic interaction of the two aircraft so Boeing and the Navy can then determine if any adjustments to guidance and control are required. Any software updates can be made early enough not to impact the current test schedule & build schedule of future models.
Capt. Chad Reed, the Navy’s Unmanned Carrier Aviation program manager told the media that “Once operational the MQ-25 will refuel every receiver-capable platform, including E-2. This flight keeps us on a fast track to getting the Stingray out to the fleet where its refueling capability will greatly increase the range and operational flexibility of the carrier air wing and strike group.”
Known as the “digital quarterback” of the fleet for its role in joint battle management and command and control, the E-2 C/D is part of the aircraft carrier airborne early warning squadron within the carrier air wing that the MQ-25 will be assigned to for future testing.
“It was another great flight showing that our MQ-25 design is performing to plan,” said Dave Bujold, Boeing’s MQ-25 program director. “These historic refueling flights provide an incredible amount of data we feed back into the MQ-25 digital models to ensure the aircraft we’re producing will be the Navy’s game-changer for the carrier air wing.
Boeing is currently manufacturing the first two of seven MQ-25 test aircraft it is current under contract for.