Boeing wins $850 million contracts to design and build the MQ-25A Stingray Drone, the Navy’s first carrier-based unmanned refueling aircraft.
Under the terms of the contract, Boeing is to produce four of the unmanned aircraft by 2024, the first major step in a defense program that is expected to eventually exceed $7 billion
Boeing plans to perform the MQ-25 work in St. Louis.
St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson tweeted Tuesday the refueling drone will be built in St. Louis. Mayor Krewson says the addition is great news and will provide future job opportunities.
The MQ-25 is viewed as an important program for the Navy because it should extend the flying range of deployed fighter jets like the F/A-18 Super Hornet and F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, giving them easier options to refuel in midair.
The US military currently uses manned aircraft to perform in-flight refueling, such as the Air Force’s KC-135 Stratotanker. However, such aircraft are much too large to be deployed aboard an aircraft carrier and require a crew of three to operate.
“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,” the Navy said in its statement.
The chief of naval operations, Adm. John Richardson, said the award constituted “a historic day,” pointing to the speed with which the contract was finalized.
“We will look back on this day and recognize that this event represents a dramatic shift in the way we define warfighting requirements, work with industry, integrate unmanned and manned aircraft, and improve the lethality of the air wing — all at relevant speed,” Richardson said, adding, “But we have a lot more to do. It’s not the time to take our foot off the gas. Let’s keep charging.”
Multiple defense contractors had vied for the contract to design and manufacture the new aircraft.
Boeing also produces the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet jet, which is the backbone of the Navy’s fleet of carrier-based fighter aircraft.
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