TEHRAN, Young Journalists Club (YJC) -The Pentagon has granted US aerospace giant Boeing a $805-million contract to produce mid-air refueling drones for the US Navy.
Boeing is required to deliver four MQ-25A Stingrays in the first phase of the contract, which can balloon into $13 billion if the US Navy decides to order its full requirement of 72 drones.
The Navy plans to deploy four drones onboard each of the 10 aircraft carriers that it currently operates, according to reports.
The Stingrays will replace F/A-18 Super Hornets that are specially designed to help other carrier-based aircraft such as F/A-18 Hornet or F-35C to extend their range by refueling in flight.
“MQ-25A is a hallmark acquisition program,” said Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Research, Development, and Acquisition James F. Geurts. “This program is a great example of how the acquisition and requirements communities work hand in hand to rapidly deliver capabilities to our Sailors and Marines in the fleet.”
After being launched by catapult off a carrier deck, the unmanned aircraft will be remotely piloted to fly over areas that are out of reach for conventional aerial tankers.
They Stingrays will be also easier and less expensive to maintain than the refueling Super Hornets, while making mid-air refueling possible further away from an aircraft carrier by up to 400 nautical miles.
According to the Pentagon, the contract covers design, development, fabrication, testing, verification, certification, delivery, and support for the four MQ-25A unmanned air vehicles.
To land the contract, Boeing had to beat competing bids from Lockheed Martin and General Atomics.