The US Navy just got one step closer to aerial refueling drones

The Pentagon announced Thursday that Boeing won a contract worth $805 million to build the Navy’s first four carrier-based unmanned aerial refueling tankers.

Boeing’s drone tanker, the MQ-25 Stingray, will launch from a ship at sea and aerial refuel Navy fighter jets such as the F/A-18 Super Hornet, the EA-18G Growler, and the F-35C.

Per the contract, the defense giant will “provide the design, development, fabrication, test, verification, certification, delivery, and support of four MQ-25A unmanned air vehicles, including integration into the carrier air wing to provide an initial operational capability to the Navy.”

The first four Stingrays are slated for delivery by August 2024.

“When operational, MQ-25A will improve the performance, efficiency, and safety of the carrier air wing and provide longer range and greater persistence tanking capability to execute missions that otherwise could not be performed,” a Pentagon statement said.

The Navy’s drone tanker competition was pursued by Lockheed Martin, the Pentagon’s top weapons supplier, as well as General Atomics.

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