Boeing tested manned-unmanned teaming between MQ-25 refueling drone and F/A-18 fighter jet.
The test took place during a demonstration sponsored by the Office of Naval Research. In a virtual environment, simulators of a F/A-18 fighter jet, and an E-2D command-and-control aircraft were connected with another simulator that used flight software of the MQ-25 Stingray drone.
Intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance missions were played out, with the drone acting as an autonomous air tanker for the jet. Guided by the commands of E-2D and the pilot of the F/A-18, it performed successfully.
Currently, the majority of drone operations are conducted with either direct control or close supervision of ground-based operators. The first successful MQ-25 refueling operation, which took place on June 7, 2021, has been performed in this manner as well.
According to Boeing, in the simulation test, the virtual MQ-25 acted on its own, listening only to the guidance from the two aircraft it was teamed with.
The mission marks a step not only towards the MQ-25 being integrated into the US Navy carrier operations, but the manned-unmanned teaming being used for other kinds of drones as well.