A new video has been released by Boeing, showcasing their uncrewed MQ-25 T1 drone refueling a F-35C fighter jet mid-air. This is the third time the drone has been tested for refueling, which is based on aircraft carriers before being sent to aid patrolling or on-mission aircraft.
Fighter jets are fast and extremely devastating in combat, but when traveling at supersonic speeds and delivering heavy payloads, suffer from poor range. The F-35C is no exception – despite being one of the most advanced jets to date, it can only travel 1,200 nautical miles (1,380 miles/2,220 kilometers) before running out of gas. Considering it can reach speeds of Mach 1.6 – or 1,930 kilometers per hour (1,200 miles per hour) – and in combat scenarios regularly exceeds the speed of sound, that gives it just a few hours flight time before refueling.
By utilizing drones for the job, the Navy hopes to enable consistent and stable refueling without unnecessary risk, while increasing range and decreasing the weight of the tanker.
“This flight was yet another physical demonstration of the maturity and stability of the MQ-25 aircraft design,” said Dave Bujold, Boeing’s MQ-25 program director, in a statement.
“Thanks to this latest mission in our accelerated test program, we are confident the MQ-25 aircraft we are building right now will meet the Navy’s primary requirement – delivering fuel safely to the carrier air wing.”
[H/T: Interesting Engineering]