Here’s Boeing Submission To The U.S. Navy MQ-25 Stingray Unmanned Carrier Aviation Air System Competition

Boeing’s MQ-25 unmanned aircraft system has been unveiled.

After teasing its shape with a mysterious tweet that included a photograph of an aircraft under protective cover on Dec. 14, as planned, Boeing has unveiled a better (still, partial) view of its submission to the MQ-25 Stingray unmanned carrier aviation air system competition (UCAAS).

Through its MQ-25 competition (with final proposals due on Jan. 3, 2018), the U.S. Navy plans to procure unmanned refueling capabilities that would extend the combat range of deployed Boeing F/A-18 Super Hornet, Boeing EA-18G Growler, and Lockheed Martin F-35C fighters. The UCAAS will operate from both land bases and the flight deck of its Nimitz- and future Ford-class aircraft carriers, seamlessly integrating with a carrier’s catapult and launch and recovery systems. The induction of the new tanker drone will offload some aerial refueling duties from the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet fleet.

“Boeing has been delivering carrier aircraft to the Navy for almost 90 years,” said Don ‘BD’ Gaddis, a retired admiral who leads the refueling system program for Boeing’s Phantom Works technology organization, in a company public release. “Our expertise gives us confidence in our approach. We will be ready for flight testing when the engineering and manufacturing development contract is awarded.”

According to Boeing the UAS (Unmanned Aerial System) is completing engine runs before heading to the flight ramp for deck handling demonstrations early next year.

The Navy issued its final request for proposals in October. Proposals are due Jan. 3.

With Northrop Grumman withdrawing from the competition in October 2017, Boeing, General Atomics, and Lockheed Martin are the three aerospace company competing for the initial development contract. The U.S. Navy has a requirement for 72 tanker drones, even though the service will initially only buy four examples of the winning design in order to assess whether the winner will be able to meet all the requirements before handing out any larger production deals.

Top image: Boeing photo by Eric Shindelbower

About David Cenciotti
David Cenciotti is a journalist based in Rome, Italy. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviationist”, one of the world’s most famous and read military aviation blogs. Since 1996, he has written for major worldwide magazines, including Air Forces Monthly, Combat Aircraft, and many others, covering aviation, defense, war, industry, intelligence, crime and cyberwar. He has reported from the U.S., Europe, Australia and Syria, and flown several combat planes with different air forces. He is a former 2nd Lt. of the Italian Air Force, a private pilot and a graduate in Computer Engineering. He has written five books and contributed to many more ones.


  1. Another drone for the Navy? Hows the X-47 working out? Oh yeah, it’s not. Waste of money and resources if you only do R&D.

    • The purpose of the X-47b was to develop methods and procedures to launch and land RPVs [Remotely Piloted Vehicles] on carriers as well as to move them around the ship. It was never meant to lead to a particular model aircraft. The bidders, at least Boeing and Lockheed-Martin, have plenty of experience with flying wing designs. That research program was purchased by the US Navy, which now owns all the data. I am certain the bidders were able to use the relevant data in preparing their bids for the MQ-25 program, since it is in the Navy’s interest [and capability] to make it available. For the above reasons alone, that research program was not a waste. Additionally, the Navy is using software developed by X-47 research to help piloted aircraft land on carriers today.

  2. why couldn’t the carriers, deploy large balloons with bladders of fuel to high altitudes where high speed winds would propel to speeds high enough for fighters to connect to the bladders inflight and refuel?

    cheap, utterly automated and could actually launched via other vessels (thus not displacing any of the fighters on the deck)

  3. Looks like a derivate of the General Atomics Avenger (Predator C).
    I have to say I am a bit disappointed they did not go for a flying wing design, which would lend itself nicely for a tanker drone. On the other hand it was probably better to modify an already existing system to save some dollars.

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