Boeing opens to new missions for its MQ-25 STINGRAY drone 06/05/2024 | Fabio Di Felice

During the last US Sea Air Space Conference held in April in Maryland, Boeing showcased an attack version of its MQ-25 STINGRAY model with 2 Lockheed Martin Long Range Anti-Surface Missiles (LRASM). Despite the drone has not been operationally employed on a carrier deck, yet - the IOC is expected in 2026 -, Troy Rutherford, Boeing’s MQ-25 Program Manager, said that the company is discussing with the Navy about other configurations of the tanker-drone and the possibility of extending its missions set to include gathering intelligence and surveillance or striking enemy targets. This statement has been confirmed by the US Naval Air Systems Command, which sees the MQ-25 as a programme more than a single drone, with the potential of paving the way to multi-mission profiles. As the STINGRAY was originally proposed for the USN defunct Unmanned Carrier-Launched Strike & Surveillance programme, Boeing is confident that some sleeping capabilities will be resumed, despite they are currently sidelined for giving priority to the air refueling main task. The US Navy intends to buy a total of 76 MQ-25s, with the first batch of low-rate production aircraft expected this May, and it has already requested $553 million to procure 3 aircraft in fiscal year 2025. Capt. Daniel Fucito, who leads the Navy’s unmanned carrier aviation efforts, confirmed to the US media that the STINGRAY production line is maturing, despite some obsolescence issues reported in the first 2 ordered aircraft, used for the initial land-based trials. Capt. Fucito has also forecasted that the future service’s experiences operating the MQ-25 onboard the carrier deck will also “set the stage” for the future US Navy Collaborative Combat Aircraft (CCA) programme after the Navy finally begins talking about potential interest in drone wingmen.

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