An Uncrewed Drone Has Refueled A Piloted Jet In Midair For The First Time


Dr. Alfredo Carpineti

Senior Staff Writer & Space Correspondent

clockJun 9 2021, 15:46 UTC
The refueling taking place in the air. Image Credit: Kevin Flynn via Boeing

The refueling taking place in the air. Image Credit: Kevin Flynn via Boeing

On June 4, the uncrewed Boeing MQ-25 T1 test asset demonstrated for the first time air-to-air refueling with a F/A-18 super hornet. As you can see in the footage released by the U.S. Navy, the drone extended its hose and rogue and was able to deliver jet fuel to the military aircraft behind it, fulfilling its primary mission.

Although a test, both aircraft were flying at the speed and altitudes expected in an actual scenario. This was the 25th T1 flight. The uncrewed aircraft has been tested extensively in preparation of an actual refueling event. The Navy paid Boeing $805 million to build the first four MQ-25 aircraft and then paid another $84.7 million to bring the number of drones to seven.


"This team of professionals was integral in the successful flight," Rear Adm. Brian Corey, who oversees the Program Executive Office for Unmanned Aviation and Strike Weapons, said in a statement.  "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."

"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," added 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."

The testing will continue in preparation for MQ-25 T1 to be tested on a U.S. Navy carrier later this year.

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