Monday, September 23, 2019

The MQ-25A Imperative

As many of you noticed in a post earlier this month on the future airwing, the MQ-25A is almost here - and it is about time.

Via Ben Werner at USNINews;
Boeing conducted the first flight of its prototype unmanned aerial refueling aircraft on Thursday, testing its handling and the Navy’s ability to fast-track a long-stalled program.

The MQ-25A Stingray “T1” test airframe flew for two hours, flying in and out of MidAmerica Airport, located next to Scott Air Force Base outside of St. Louis. Boeing and Navy officials described the weather as perfect for flying as the T1 gathered performance data for Boeing and the Navy to review.
While a lot are itchy and a bit flustered that we are only going to use it for tanking (for now), it remains the correct move for two reasons; 1) It is a basic mission that will enable us to get used to operating and maintaining a CVN UAS so we can expand later in to other missions; 2) We have a gaping maw of a requirement for organic tanking.

It has been clear for a very long time how stupid it was to get rid of organic tanking. I've said from the start and maintain my position, that buddy-tanking does not count and is a false economy.

Facts, as usual, are on my side;

The Navy’s mission for carrier-based UAVs has evolved during the past decade. Initially, the UAVs were considered to augment a carrier-based strike capability and to provide surveillance missions. Instead, the Navy narrowed its focus to refueling as a way to free up more F/A-18E/F Super Hornets for strike missions.

“Stingrays can provide persistent aerial refueling that’s going to extend the range and operational capability of the carrier air wing and the CSG, and it’s going to improve the efficiency by increasing the number of F-18s available for the strike fighter mission,” Reed said.

Currently, between 20 and 30 percent of an air wing’s Super Hornet fleet is dedicated to aerial refueling operations. The introduction of the MQ-25A Stingray will free up those Super Hornets for strike missions. The MQ-25A will delivery up to 15,000 pounds of fuel at 500 nautical miles.
No one is bringing back the S-3Bs and we may get lucky that a real naval conflict does not come up in the next decade ... so let's get that tanking ability back ... and then get to work on the FA-XX.

Hat tip Blake.

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