Boeing has announced that the US Navy’s MQ-25 Stingray uncrewed aerial refueler communicated with other crewed aircraft without requiring any air vehicle operator on the ground.
This event took place as part of a new demonstration testing advanced crewed-uncrewed teaming (MUM-T) capabilities.
The demonstration occurred in a virtual environment and was conducted by Boeing and Northrop Grumman, with the MQ-25 Stingray communicating with the E-2D Advanced Hawkeye airborne command and control aircraft and the F/A-18 Super Hornet.
The Office of Naval Research sponsored the demonstration.
For the demonstration, Northrop Grumman provided its E-2D simulator to work alongside Boeing’s F/A-18 and MQ-25 simulations.
According to Boeing, the simulated mission cases saw the E-2D successfully serving as the air wing ‘tanker king’, with the MQ-25 refuelling the F/A-18.
Boeing MQ-25 Advanced Design official Don Gaddis said: “Two of our key findings from this early demonstration with existing data links are that initial MUM-T capability between MQ-25, E-2D and F/A-18 is achievable with minimal change to the crew vehicle interface and could be integrated into earlier MQ-25 operational deployments.”
The simulated mission scenarios also included the F/A-18 and E-2D changing the tanker’s orbit station, flight path, or aerial refuelling store payload.
Boeing noted that future MUM-T demonstrations will include additional mission areas, interface enhancements, as well as autonomous behaviours and protected networks.
Northrop Grumman Manned Airborne Surveillance Programs vice-president Janice Zilch said: “This demonstration of the E-2D Advanced Hawkeye controlling the MQ-25 builds on our experience in integrating unmanned systems into carrier flight operations.
“As the airborne command and control node, E-2D will be a critical component to enabling the US Navy’s Unmanned Campaign Framework.
“We work closely with industry partners and the Navy in support of meaningful technology demonstrations that showcase E-2D’s agile environment, interoperability and unmatched command and control capabilities.”
In June, Boeing and the US Navy demonstrated the first-ever aerial refuelling between a crewed and uncrewed aircraft.