Boeing revealed its MQ-25 unmanned refueling drone. Refueling drones would extend the combat range of deployed Boeing F/A-18 Super Hornet, Boeing EA-18G Growler, and Lockheed Martin F-35C fighters. The MQ-25 will also have to seamlessly integrate with a carrier’s catapult and launch and recovery systems.
US Navy fighters currently have an unrefueled range of 500 to 600 miles.
The goal was for each MQ-25 to be able to dispense more than approximately 2,200 gallons, or nearly 15,000 pounds, of fuel 500 miles from the carrier.
One refueling would extend the operating range beyond 700 miles.
The drone would free up 20-30% of the F18 that currently must perform refueling.
Lockheed Martin and General Atomics are also expected to have competing refueling drones.