The Boeing MQ-25 Stingray is the US Navy’s UAV to serve the role of aerial refueling tanker that originated from the CBARS (Carrie Based Aerial Refueling System) program which was then later converted to be the UCLASS (Unmanned Carrier-Launched Airborne Surveillance and Strike) program. The very first flight for the prototype of the Boeing MQ-25 Stingray took place on September 19th, 2019.
For our readers today, we bring to you some of the little known facts about the Boeing MQ-25 Stingray; the UAV aerial tanker.
The very first efforts from the United States Navy started way back in the 2006 to develop a UAV that could operate from an aircraft carrier. The original program was to build a platform for carrying out stealth stokes with deep penetration into the enemy’s air defense. Then back in 2012, the program saw a turn to develop a platform for an ISR (Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance) aircraft which was able to deal missions of low intensity against terrorism threats. After that, another major change occurred back in February of 2016 to create an aircraft which would be the size of the Super Hornet and would serve the role of the aerial refueling taker as a CBARS with little of having the ISR capabilities.
This project was first named as the RAQ-25A by the US Navy but then the later designation given to it was Boeing MQ-25 Stingray.
Requirements for Stingray Program and Competitors:-
The requirements from the Navy to build the Boeing MQ-25 Stingray were to create an unmanned aerial vehicle that could provide its service from aboard an aircraft carrier. The major requirements for the program were to create an aircraft that had the minimum fuel load-carrying capacity of 14000 lbs with a maximum range of 500 miles from its host ship.
4 major aircraft manufacturing companies presented their services for the creation of this one of a kind UAV, which are as follows.
- General Atomics
- Lockheed Martin
- Northrop Grumman
As for now, only competitors for the Boeing MQ-25 Stingray are Lockheed Martin, General Atomics and Boeing whereas Northrop Grumman voluntarily stepped back from this project back in 2017. The reason for the sudden bowing out by Northrop was their presentation for the carrier based aircraft titled X-47B.
As for the expectations of the US Navy to have a fleet of Boeing MQ-25 Stingrays in its naval fleet, the expected date is 2025 while the formal selection was made in 2018. At that time Boeing and general Atomics shook hand to create a better model in order to get a collective lucrative contract for the Boeing MQ-25 Stingray.
Designation of title “Stingray”:-
One of the UASs (Unmanned Air Systems) got destroyed in a massive explosion back in the early 2000s n the sphere of the military region that promoted the US Navy to seek a new UAV which could serve the role of an aerial tanker from aboard a flight deck of an aircraft carrier.
The program was started as the UCLAS (Unmanned Carrier Launched Airborne Surveillance and Strike) program for the US Navy but since then saw its evolution into CBARS (Carrier-Based Aerial Refueling System). The product of this program was designated by the US Navy as Boeing MQ-25 Stingray officially.
Design of the model from Boeing’s “Phantomworks”; the secretive branch:-
The model presented by the Boeing for the program of Boeing MQ-25 Stingray was created by the company’s secretive branch known as Phantomworks. The prototype from Boeing seems to have many of the design features taken from Boeing’s earlier project for creating an attack drone for the UCLASS program.
This model of the new UAV aerial tanker was presented by the Boeing back on 19th December 2017 which featured an aircraft with a wing-body shape that had sweptback mainplanes. As for the tailplanes of the model, they consist of two outward canted surfaces. The undercarriage for this UAV consisted of a tri-wheel arrangement that would allow for ground running. Each of the main legs only had 1 wheel each while the nose leg of the aircraft being reinforced with a configuration of the double wheel.
The fuselage of the Boeing MQ-25 Stingray model was well rounded which was noticeably deep from the front and was designed this way for carrying all the needed things ranging from avionics to powerplants and the fuel stores.
As for the foldable wings of the Boeing MQ-25 Stingray model, they were a must-have for this UAV because of it to be serving aboard an aircraft carrier which suffers from space restrictions.
The functionality of MQ-25 Stingray:-
In order to operate from an aircraft carrier, Boeing MQ-25 Stingray is required to be able to navigate on the corded deck while moving from the elevator to the catapult for a steady launch and then back to deck to elevator upon completing the mission. In order to serve its rigorous role of operating from an aircraft carrier, Boeing MQ-25 Stingray is given the reinforced structure that comes with special coatings on its skin to not be affected by the sea’s salty environment.
The Boeing MQ-25 Stingray is expected to refuel all kinds of the US Navy’s in-service aircraft which also includes the soon to e serving F-35 Lightning II. With the arrival of the Boeing MQ-25 Stingray, the other aircraft that had been doing the secondary role of refueling aircraft for US Navy like the F/A-18 Super Hornet variants E and F, to be able to revert back to their combat roles.
The fuel delivery is not going to be the only capability for the Boeing MQ-25 Stingray. The US Navy also plans to use this UAV for the secondary role of being an ISR (Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance) aircraft. This role will be performed by the Boeing MQ-25 Stingray through the help of the radar it will carry for the maritime operations.
First flight and the final version:-
As of now the very first successful prototype of the Boeing MQ-25 Stingray has taken its first flight back on September 19th, 2019 with the Boeing saying that the aircraft is in its final completion phase. Despite the US Navy’s deadline to submit the Boeing MQ-25 Stingray program in the January of 2018. Boeing is still performing some final engine testing as well as the basic runs.
The service plan of the US Navy for the Boeing MQ-25 Stingray is to have a fleet of nearly 72 of these Boeing MQ-25 Stingrays for the active duty service from the active carrier decks by the end of this decade.
A Boeing MQ-25 Stingray is powered by a single Rolls Royce AE 3007N turbofan engine which can deliver a thrust of nearly 10000 lbs which gives it a top speed of nearly 385 mph for a maximum range of 2485 miles. The service ceiling for the Boeing MQ-25 Stingray is about 39370 feet.