St. Louis-based Boeing Defense, Space & Security will build the first the MQ-25 Stingray aerial refueler drones following an $805-million contract placed by the U.S. Dept. of Defense. The award covers engineering and manufacturing development for four aircraft. The Navy has indicated it plans to buy a total of 76 additional 72 of the drones at a total program cost of $13 billion.
The MQ-25 unmanned carrier aviation air system (UCAAS), formerly the Carrier-Based Aerial-Refueling System (CBARS), is a product of the DoD’s Unmanned Carrier-Launched Airborne Surveillance and Strike (UCLASS) program. According to the U.S. Navy, the MQ-25 will allow for better use of combat strike fighters by extending the range of deployed Boeing F/A-18 Super Hornet, Boeing EA-18G Growler, and Lockheed Martin F-35C aircraft. It will integrate with a carrier’s catapult and launch-and-recovery systems.
According to DoD, the “fixed-price-incentive-firm-target contract” covers design, development, fabrication, testing, verification, certification, delivery, and support for the four MQ-25A unmanned air vehicles, including integration into the carrier air wing to provide an initial operational capability to the Navy. Most of the work will be carried out by Boeing at St. Louis and is expected to be completed in August 2024.
“As a company, we made an investment in both our team and in an unmanned aircraft system that meets the U.S. Navy’s refueling requirements,” stated Leanne Caret, president and CEO, Boeing Defense, Space & Security. “The fact that we’re already preparing for first flight is thanks to an outstanding team who understands the Navy and their need to have this important asset on carrier decks around the world.”