Boeing and BAE Systems partner for MQ-25 tanker drone computing upgrade

BAE Systems

Boeing has selected BAE Systems to upgrade the MQ-25 Stingray unmanned aerial refueler’s vehicle management system computer (VMSC). 

The upgrade is aimed at enhancing computing power and addressing obsolescence concerns, which will improve the autonomous aerial tanker’s performance and pave the way for future upgrades.  

“BAE Systems is a leader in flight-critical systems and solutions,” said Corin Beck, Senior Director of Military Aircraft Systems for Controls and Avionics Solutions at BAE Systems. “Our upgraded VMSC for the MQ-25 will deliver advanced functionality—enabling this platform to execute today and tomorrow’s critical missions, while also reducing the amount of hardware required on the aircraft through consolidation into this computer.” 

The MQ-25 is the first carrier-based uncrewed aircraft used by the US Navy. The drone will replace the F/A-18 fighters currently assigned to this role, with 20% to 30% of their flight time currently dedicated to refueling missions. The MQ-25 will allow the US Navy to preserve the service life of the Super Hornets.  

The upgraded VMSC from BAE Systems will control flight surfaces and oversee overall vehicle management duties for the MQ-25. It will also enable the Stingray to perform future missions beyond aerial refueling, including support for intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) payloads. 

On December 21, 2021, the US Navy and Boeing completed the first series of tests on the MQ-25 Stingray unmanned aerial refueler on the deck of an aircraft carrier. 

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