Boeing unveils unmanned tanker drone for US Navy

Boeing has unveiled for the first time an unmanned aircraft system (UAS) designed for air refueling U.S. Navy jets operating from aircraft carriers.

The UAS will compete for US Navy's MQ-25 Stingray competition, that seeks an unmanned refueling aircraft to extend combat range of deployed Boeing F/A-18 Super Hornet, Boeing EA-18G Growler, and Lockheed Martin F-35C fighters.

The only photo released by Boeing MQ-25, indicate a stealthy wing-body-tail design with strengthened landing gears intended for carrier operations.

Developed by Phantom Works, the advanced prototyping arm of Boeing, like the Skunks Works of Lockheed Martin, the MQ-25 will also have to seamlessly integrate with a carrier’s catapult and launch and recovery systems.

Boeing reveals the UAS is completing engine runs before heading to the flight ramp for deck handling demonstrations early next year.

US Navy requires the MQ-25 to be able to carry nearly 15,000 pounds of fuel to a distance of 500 miles from a carrier, enough to extend the range of combat aircraft 300 or 400 miles beyond their typical range.

US Navy issued the final request for proposals (RFP) in October to Boeing, Lockheed Martin and General Atomics, who have to respond by January 3 2018.

Northrop Grumman who have earlier successfully demonstrated unmanned aerial refueling technology using its X-47B carrier borne aircraft, had backed out of the program shortly after RFP release.

While Lockheed Martin is yet to reveal its MQ-25 design, General Atomics's offering is based on the Avenger unmanned aircraft, equipped with wing mounted aerial refueling pod.