Boeing and the US Navy have flown the MQ-25 T1 test asset with an aerial refuelling store (ARS) for the first time.

This is said to be a major milestone in the unmanned aerial refueler development.

The test was carried out with the Cobham ARS, which was mounted under the wing, and tested the aerodynamics of the aircraft with the ARS.

Boeing test pilots carried out the flight from a ground control station at MidAmerica St. Louis Airport in Mascoutah, Illinois.

US Navy Unmanned Carrier Aviation programme manager captain Chad Reed said: “Having a test asset flying with an ARS gets us one big step closer in our evaluation of how MQ-25 will fulfil its primary mission in the fleet, aerial refuelling.

“T1 will continue to yield valuable early insights as we begin flying with F/A-18s and conduct deck handling testing aboard a carrier.”

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The future flights will test the aerodynamics at different points of the flight envelope.

Boeing MQ-25 programme director Dave Bujold said: “To see T1 fly with the hardware and software that makes MQ-25 an aerial refueler this early in the programme is a visible reminder of the capability we’re bringing to the carrier deck.

“We are ensuring the ARS and the software operating it will be ready to help MQ-25 extend the range of the carrier air wing.”

The T1 test asset, which is owned by Boeing, will be followed by the engineering development model aircraft, which is under production under a contract awarded in 2018.

In April this year, Boeing secured a contract modification for three additional MQ-25 unmanned aerial refuelling aircraft from the US Navy.

The latest contract, which is valued at $84.7m, will bring the total number of MQ-25 aircraft to be manufactured by Boeing to seven.