Boeing MQ-25 Refueling Drone

Ritch

LE
Designed to operate off aircraft carriers which isn't new but the refuelling aspect is an interesting one.

Boeing unveils unmanned MQ-25 aircraft that will "change future air power"


Aerospace manufacturer Boeing has unveiled a huge military drone that will be used for refuelling fighter jets mid-air.

The MQ-25 is an unmanned aircraft system (UAS), designed by Boeing to refuel US Navy jets that are operating from aircraft carriers while in flight.

The company teased an image of the new MQ-25 aircraft hidden under a black cover earlier this month, before exposing it yesterday, December 19 2017.

Featuring a stingray-like appearance, the jet is designed to refuel a range of jets, including the F/A-18 Super Hornet, the EA-18G Growler and the F-35C.

boeing-mq25-hero-1-1024x576.jpg
 
Seems like a good idea.

No reason why things like refueling, stores and even AEW shouldn't be moved across to drones.
 

Ritch

LE
According to other sources, it will still have a limited strike capability but the stealth requirement has been dropped.

It's also been designed to deliver 15,000lbs of fuel to 6-8 jets at a range of 500 nautical miles.
 
Seems like a good idea.

No reason why things like refueling, stores and even AEW shouldn't be moved across to drones.

Aside from the issue of bandwidth, RPAS by definition cannot be operated passively.

Moreover, most currently require more manpower, have greater airspace operating restrictions, and cost more than the equivalent manned platform. Finally, they’re not much use in high latitudes where satellite coverage is limited (one of the reasons why Norway opted for P-8s rather than MQ-4C Tritons).

RPAS have their benefits, but they’re not a panacea.

In this case, the USN have probably focused on an RPAS due to reduce airframe life use on their FA-18E/Fs, and with an eye to the ISR role.

Regards,
MM
 
Do you refer to the buddy tanks, with the airframe life?

In higher, and lower, areas of the earth would HAPS be useful for comms and ISR?
 
Do you refer to the buddy tanks, with the airframe life?...

I guess the higher gross weight of carrier cycles with 4 x bags and a centreline buddy store is not great on the airframes. Plus, the tanker task removes an otherwise combat capable asset from the flypro.

@ECMO1 is better qualified to comment than me.

...In higher, and lower, areas of the earth would HAPS be useful for comms and ISR?

Potentially yes.

However, HAPS are only of use in a non-contested battlespace. Otherwise that adds another vulnerability to the RPAS as well as further expense.

Regards,
MM
 
Potentially yes.

However, HAPS are only of use in a non-contested battlespace. Otherwise that adds another vulnerability to the RPAS as well as further expense.

Regards,
MM

Naturally but satellites (actually in orbit) aren't completely safe from physical destruction or other counter measures.
 

Yokel

LE
I assume this is tanking local to the carrier - in which case long range communicaions and bandwidth are not going to be as significant as with a system operating at range.
 
Naturally but satellites (actually in orbit) aren't completely safe from physical destruction or other counter measures.

I know; this is another RPAS vulnerability.

However, HAPS are more vulnerable as they can be reached by conventional AAMs.

I assume this is tanking local to the carrier - in which case long range communicaions and bandwidth are not going to be as significant as with a system operating at range.

That’s the normal role of an organic tanker, not least as they’re so limited in capacity. However, the MQ-25 appears to emphasise some degree of LO so it’s possible it could accompany a small flight of fast jets and they could all be topped off by a land based tanker before proceeding into contested airspace.

LO or not however, I’m not sure how viable any tanking would be in an S-300/400 MEZ! It may therefore be the LO is related to a future ISR or strike role. I do find the MQ-25 a bit of an odd concept but I’m sure there’s a reason for its apparent design contradictions.

Regards,
MM
 
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Note is made of roles other than tanker. Strike would seem an obvious one.

ISR and strike are meant to be growth areas for the MQ-25 (the very designation of which implies multi-role) and also lay in the origins of the X-47B Programme.

Regards,
MM
 
As long as they have worked out the kinks...


Real life got their first...or at least trials did!
landscape-1429735934-1.jpg.cf.jpg

Now they just have to make it work the other way!

Regards,
MM
 
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Troy

LE
Tanker aircraft are such valuable assets that they need escorting. Same thing must apply to tanker drones too.
Could regular drones escort a tanker drone?
 

Bouillabaisse

LE
Book Reviewer
Tanker aircraft are such valuable assets that they need escorting. Same thing must apply to tanker drones too.
Could regular drones escort a tanker drone?

To defend against air superiority fighter drones attempting to intercept our drones? It's the way of the future.
 

AlienFTM

MIA
Book Reviewer
Where did you get that from?

It's jolly interesting if it is correct. As the F-18 is... well F for Fighter.
I think it was the Stephen Koontz books (of which the doyen I think was Flight of the Intruder) that built novels around US carrier ops.

There was a system for launching a raid. Get fighters up to keep the airspace clear, get AWACS up to control the raid. Get a tanker up. Get the raid aircraft up. Top up the raid aircraft that have used a lot of fuel getting airborne. Set off on the raid.

Something like that. Don't quote me. It must be 25 years since I read them at the VSC while consulting.

A lot more takeoffs than just the raid aircraft.
 
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Where did you get that from?

It's jolly interesting if it is correct. As the F-18 is... well F for Fighter.

The hornet can't take off with a full load of fuel and wpns. So they take off with reduced fuel and then top up to full tanks from one configured as a buddy refueler. 40% seems excessive but there is the weasel words "up to 40%" so there may be some edge cases of range/payload/weather that need that many
 
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