On June 7, 2021, the Boeing MQ-25 T1 test asset refueled a US Navy F/A-18 Super Hornet, marking the first time in history when an unmanned aircraft has ever refueled another aircraft.
“This history-making event is a credit to our joint Boeing and Navy team that is all-in on delivering MQ-25’s critical aerial refueling capability to the fleet as soon as possible,” said Leanne Caret, president and CEO of Boeing Defense, Space & Security. “Their work is the driving force behind the safe and secure integration of unmanned systems in the immediate future of defense operations.”
History in flight! During a recent #MQ25 T1 test asset flight, this unmanned aerial refueler for the @USNavy delivered fuel to an F/A-18 #SuperHornet — the first time an unmanned aircraft has ever refueled another aircraft. pic.twitter.com/oDs9Y2uQdQ— Boeing Defense (@BoeingDefense) June 7, 2021
To begin what will now be known as the first successful unmanned air-to-air refueling mission, the F/A-18 pilot flew 20 feet (6 meters) behind the MQ-25 to ensure performance and stability prior to receiving fuel. After an initial evaluation was safely completed, the MQ-25 drogue was extended, and the F/A-18 Super Hornet pilot moved in to “plug” with the unmanned aircraft and received the fuel.
The success came after 25 T1 flights, testing both aircraft and ARS aerodynamics, as well as simulations of aerial refueling using MQ-25 digital models.
“This team of professionals was integral in the successful flight,” said Rear Adm. Brian Corey, who oversees the Program Executive Office for Unmanned Aviation and Strike Weapons. “Over the next few years, we will work side-by-side with Boeing to deliver this capability that will greatly enhance the future carrier air wing.”