US Navy’s UCLASS / CBARS / MQ-XX / MQ-25 Stingray Program

Would it even need to be a variant? The current platform is carrying heavier weights with tanks.

So far, we've only ever seen MQ-25 flying with a single refueling pod under the port wing. There does not even appear to be a second hardpoint on the starboard side, so an armed version needs that modification at least. Plus whatever wiring and datalinks it needs for the weapon itself, and potentially some onboard ESM sensor for targeting. (It looks like the antennas on this model might be a bit different from the stock MQ-25A, but it's hard to tell.)
 
A Boeing team says it is on track to upgrade the MQ-25 Stingray with the ability to autonomously refuel other MQ-25s by 2030, meeting a “high priority” goal for the U.S. Navy. “We’re on a path to potentially being able to certify that in the future,” said Ryan McClintock

 
It is rather silly to use your dedicated tanking asset as a weapons platform. And the entire MQ-25 effort seems like a ridiculous debacle, how is a UAV 150 million dollars?

There are surely more cost effective ways to provide tanker support.

I'm usually critical of efforts to solve a problem in the most complicated way possible, but...

In the case of the MQ-25 though, it is a necessary evolutionary step in the operation of jet powered UAVs from aircraft carriers.

If the MQ-25 proves itself to be capable of safely operating from aircraft carriers, it is inevitable that other roles will be explored (as was originally intended at the start of the UCLAS program).
 
It is rather silly to use your dedicated tanking asset as a weapons platform. And the entire MQ-25 effort seems like a ridiculous debacle, how is a UAV 150 million dollars?
Because it's a rather big UAV, it's not something the size of a Cessna like a Predator is.
 
Perhaps, but it isn't clear that the MQ-25 does more than an F-18 could do with a five wet configuration.
Other than preventing the service life of the fighter/attack F-18 from being used up and utterly wasted in the five wet tanker configuration.
 
Other than preventing the service life of the fighter/attack F-18 from being used up and utterly wasted in the five wet tanker configuration.
Instead, you're eating hours off of a more expensive airframe?

Hopefully there is much better offload at range than a Shornet as was planned. Otherwise, this sounds like a terrible waste of money compared to buying more Super Hornets.

Super Hornet in mission-tanking configuration only gives you 5,000 lbs offload at distance. The goal for this program is supposed to triple that. If it can't outperform the SHornets in that role, it isn't worth pursuing. I haven't followed this closely, so I haven't heard anything indicating the goal has changed.
 
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Instead, you're eating hours off of a more expensive airframe?

Hopefully there is much better offload at range than a Shornet as was planned. Otherwise, this sounds like a terrible waste of money compared to buying more Super Hornets.

Super Hornet in mission-tanking configuration only gives you 5,000 lbs offload at distance. The goal for this program is supposed to triple that. If it can't outperform the SHornets in that role, it isn't worth pursuing. I haven't followed this closely, so I haven't heard anything indicating the goal has changed.
Any hour that a Super Bug is not carrying ordnance is an hour of that plane's life wasted.

Do you want to burn half a Hornet's life in the 5 wet tanker config?

Or do you want a plane built for twice as many hours (or maybe more, have to check the design life) to do that, even if the pure tanker is more expensive? After all, I doubt the MQ25 is doing 7 gees anywhere but landing.
 
Instead, you're eating hours off of a more expensive airframe?

Super Hornet is so expensive that it took the Navy two years to negotiate a buy of 20 airframes. They ended up with 17 as of this March.

Hopefully there is much better offload at range than a Shornet as was planned. Otherwise, this sounds like a terrible waste of money compared to buying more Super Hornets.

A bizarre take, considering eventually Stingray may evolve into a strike system similar to UCLASS, which has better knock-on effects. The obvious benefit of using the new software and TTPs developed operating a robotic aircraft from the carrier is that you can start making robotic aircraft that do things besides act as a tanker, and do it much faster, for the CVW.

Eventually, when the Navy finds the money to pay for new aircraft, and isn't trying to do more important things, it might get a CCA.

"Buying more Super Hornets" is not a realistic option. No one wants more Super Hornets. The Navy wants more F-35C, it just can't afford them, but it can afford to fund a robotic aircraft that might lead to new robotic systems in the future, thus killing two birds with one stone: robotic aircraft don't need real pilots (just use a petty officer) and robotic aircraft can be made smaller and more cheaply than manned ones like JSF.
 
And they don't need year-round training (type only do need but not every airframe).
 
Has anyone come across an expected/designed airframe life for the MQ25?

For example, the F16 was designed for 8000 hours (and required some mods once in service to actually reach that). The B52 was designed for 80,000 hours(!) originally and is currently rated for 37k hours before the upper wing skins need to be replaced, flying low in the 1960s and 1970s really took a lot of life out of them.
 
Other than preventing the service life of the fighter/attack F-18 from being used up and utterly wasted in the five wet tanker configuration.
150 million would buy you another hornet to replace the one you wore out…
 
Any hour that a Super Bug is not carrying ordnance is an hour of that plane's life wasted.

Do you want to burn half a Hornet's life in the 5 wet tanker config?
No, I am a proponent of this program because as planned it significantly improves offload at range. They really should have used the S-3 fleet which had a lot of life left for that role. Instead the carriers are essentially useless for their actual role the last decade. Too valuable to put in harm's way, and embarked aircraft too short legged to effectively project power.

But if the offload of the MQ-25 is the same as the Shornets as one user alleged, there is no advantage to buying a more expensive airframe rather than simply buying more Shornets to burn hours off of.

_Del_ said:
Super Hornet in mission-tanking configuration only gives you 5,000 lbs offload at distance. The goal for this program is supposed to triple that. If it can't outperform the SHornets in that role, it isn't worth pursuing. I haven't followed this closely, so I haven't heard anything indicating the goal has changed.

Again, if the offload goal has changed and approaches parity with the Shornet 5-wet, then this program is simply a more expensive way to burn hours off airframes.

As advertised it is a needed capability they should have never lost to begin with.
 
Instead, you're eating hours off of a more expensive airframe?
Now you are more concerned about cost than mission?

Think of it as eating up hours from an airframe that has no objective combat capability at present and will not for a decade.
 
Is the issue with MQ25 as a tanker that in no way is it actually designed as a tanker?

It’s a LO shaped aircraft with swept wings for high subsonic flight.

A tanker would look more, well, S3 sized with large fuselage/wing volume for tanks and only a speed for tanking needed.

Currently it seems to be making the best of a bad job in having the MQ25 airframe available and also developing the techniques for unmanned carrier ops. Surprisingly pragmatic and sensible.

Presumably the USN is hoping its next gen aircraft is longer legged and doesnt need tanking.
 
Swept wings?
The wings couldn't be more unswept, even when compared to the S-3 wings.
Hmmm, yes, not sure why I had that in my mind!

The LO drivers for the airframe are significant however, I would imagine a purpose designed tanker would look rather different.
 
Well, Boeing has been fairly up front that their MQ-25 was originally designed for UCLASS, which was not primarily a tanker. It's been reworked to some degree, but it's not clear how much. Boeing was apparently looking at UCLASS as primarily a surveillance asset (as did General Atomics), hence the long straight wing for endurance, rather than the flying wing that some others were pitching.
 
Not sure what it is, but it looks like it has a carrier type nose landing gear, forward facing sensor, and a radome under the belly...
 
Not sure what it is, but it looks like it has a carrier type nose landing gear, forward facing sensor, and a radome under the belly...
I think that silver thing on the nose is a mirror on the fence, so you can see what's coming around the corner.
 
Not sure what it is, but it looks like it has a carrier type nose landing gear, forward facing sensor, and a radome under the belly...

I think the "radome" is the hose-reel pod.
 
I think that silver thing on the nose is a mirror on the fence, so you can see what's coming around the corner.

Sure, I was referring to the thing immediately in front of the nose landing gear.

I think the "radome" is the hose-reel pod.

Could be something under the wing indeed. But the refueling pod of the MQ-25 would be under the left (port) wing... So far, to my knowledge the starboard hardpoint has not been used outside of CGI rendering and desk models.
I could totally be wrong of course.
 

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I can't make out enough in that silhouette to say if the bulge is in front or behind the fuselage.
 

Two interesting items there:

1) Obviously the armed MQ-25, this time with JDAM-ER instead of JASSM/LRASM at Navy League. Know your audience; the Marines obviously will care more about bombs than cruise missiles.

2) A tanker-roled MQ-25 with a FLIR ball, which is the first time I think we've seen this configuration. Depending on how good the FLIR is, that could certainly be useful for surface surveillance.

Edit: Turns out they showed the FLIR-equipped tanker at Sea-Air-Space as well. Wonder if that's baseline but just not yet on the test aircraft or if it is an enhanced capability.

1717963718788.png
 
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Two interesting items there:

1) Obviously the armed MQ-25, this time with JDAM-ER instead of JASSM/LRASM at Navy League. Know your audience; the Marines obviously will care more about bombs than cruise missiles.

2) A tanker-roled MQ-25 with a FLIR ball, which is the first time I think we've seen this configuration. Depending on how good the FLIR is, that could certainly be useful for surface surveillance.

Edit: Turns out they showed the FLIR-equipped tanker at Sea-Air-Space as well. Wonder if that's baseline but just not yet on the test aircraft or if it is an enhanced capability.

View attachment 731376
At the very least, that FLIR ball may make it possible for the MQ25 to be automatically guided by ground personnel now, instead of the ground handlers giving directions to someone with a tablet controller. Which IIRC was a desired capability back when.
 
At the very least, that FLIR ball may make it possible for the MQ25 to be automatically guided by ground personnel now, instead of the ground handlers giving directions to someone with a tablet controller. Which IIRC was a desired capability back when.

There's a separate forward-facing camera in the nose that they could use for that.

I went looking and Boeing actually was showing the FLIR ball in 2018 (along with a drop tank opposite the hose reel pod). So I'm leaning on the FLIR being part of their baseline proposal and just being left out of the prototypes.

1718013799672.png

 
There's a separate forward-facing camera in the nose that they could use for that.

I went looking and Boeing actually was showing the FLIR ball in 2018 (along with a drop tank opposite the hose reel pod). So I'm leaning on the FLIR being part of their baseline proposal and just being left out of the prototypes.

View attachment 731552

In regards to the MQ-25 flush inlet, with Tacit Blue's flush inlet, the engines were not easy to start, they liked to start the aircraft facing into the wind (could not start cross-wind) but after start, running and in-flight, the inlet apparently performed really well and had good pressure recovery, they also had to put a netting across the inlet when not flying, to keep birds and critters out of the inlet. Seems when Boeing completed X-45 Phantom Ray and MQ-25 in which MQ-25 was placed in a hangar in 2014 and then competed for UCLASS then CBARS where it was selected.
 
In regards to the MQ-25 flush inlet, with Tacit Blue's flush inlet, the engines were not easy to start, they liked to start the aircraft facing into the wind (could not start cross-wind) but after start, running and in-flight, the inlet apparently performed really well and had good pressure recovery, they also had to put a netting across the inlet when not flying, to keep birds and critters out of the inlet. Seems when Boeing completed X-45 Phantom Ray and MQ-25 in which MQ-25 was placed in a hangar in 2014 and then competed for UCLASS then CBARS where it was selected.
IIRC part of that may have been the two engines behind one intake issue. The Tacit Blue had to go to not-quite-simultaneous starts, getting one engine turning then starting the second one within 30sec or less. Otherwise the running engine would pull all the air in the inlet into it and the engine trying to start would never get enough airflow to light off.
 


"Boeing has said it is anticipating three low-rate initial production (LRIP) contracts from the US Navy for its MQ-25 carrier-based refuelling UAS. Each contract would be for three platforms with the first order expected to be placed next year."
 
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"Boeing has said it is anticipating three low-rate initial production (LRIP) contracts from the US Navy for its MQ-25 carrier-based refuelling UAS. Each contract would be for three platforms with the first order expected to be placed next year."
Surprised that they're talking about 3 separate contracts for 3 birds each, instead of 1 contract for 9 birds...
 

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