NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. – Later this year, Boeing’s prototype for the Navy’s MQ-25A Stingray unmanned aerial tanker will make its first flight from an Illinois airport. When the Stingray will start operating from U.S. carriers is less clear.
On April 28, Boeing moved its MQ-25A prototype from its manufacturing facility near St. Louis, Mo. to the MidAmerica regional airport where it will conduct its first flight later this year, Program Executive Officer for Unmanned Aviation and Strike Weapons Rear Adm. Brian Corey said on Monday at the Navy League’s Sea Air Space 2019 symposium.
“The team is working through the software checks and the clearance with the FAA and the FCC, etcetera, to make sure when we operate the aircraft we operate it safely and we bring her home,” he said.
In August, Boeing won an $805 million contract to build the first four MQ-25A based on the prototype the company built in secret for the canceled Unmanned Carrier Launched Airborne Surveillance and Strike (UCLASS) competition. Boeing kept the design when the program’s focus shifted to a tanking roll in 2015 At the time, Navy leaders were pushing for a 2024 IOC but Corey said that December guidance from Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson is pushing the Navy to move to try and get the carrier earlier.
“When we awarded our contract [in August] we believed we could go to ’24, [but] CNO said ASAP,” Corey said. “I’m not going to give you a date. It’s as soon as we can.”
Unlike other competitors for the MQ-25A contract, Boeing came to the table with a flyable prototype that may help the Navy accelerate the program, Corey said.
“Part of what we’re doing by flying this test asset this year is figuring out how fast can we go,” he said.
“How much work can we get done on that vehicle before we build our first [contracted] vehicle?”
In tandem with tests of the airframe, Naval Air Systems Command is also developing the ground control station and the data links to operate the airframe.
In terms of how the MQ-25A will integrate with the rest of the carrier air wing, Corey said the Navy would employ a model similar to how MH-60R Seahawk crews use with the unmanned MQ-8 Fire Scout UAVs aboard Littoral Combat Ships.
The MQ-25As will be paired with the Navy’s E-2 Hawkeye community. E-2 pilots and naval flight officers will cross train to operate the MQ-25A from the carrier, Corey said.
Since 1963, the Navy has used the C-2A Greyhound, known as the carrier onboard delivery (COD), for transportation of personnel and cargo from shore to at-sea aircraft carriers. But the aircraft’s inactive production line and other limitations had the Navy looking for a more versatile option.
That replacement didn’t come in the form of an advanced, new platform. It’s been hiding in plain sight in the form of the U.S. Marine Corps MV-22 Osprey.
The Osprey brings flexibility to a strike group, said Navy Capt. Bill Reed, the Commander, Carrier Air Wing 7, currently embarked aboard the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72).
According to an article published on Naval Aviation News, the Navy’s version of the MV-22, the CMV-22B, makes loading and unloading cargo at night easier, has longer-range radio capability, increased fuel capacity, vertical takeoff and landing capability, and can carry cargo of 6,000lbs for more than 1,100 nautical miles.
“It gives us that agility and flexibility the Navy looks for going forward into the future,” said Reed.
The transition could be as simple as painting “NAVY” on the side of an already existing platform, except for one detail, the Navy currently does not have any Osprey Squadrons..
Although not as easy as a paint job, the Navy has started training its pilots to fly the new aircraft. Naval aviators have been receiving qualifications at Marine Corps Air Station New River in Jacksonville, North Carolina. Once the pilots complete the course of instruction there, they are embedded with a Marine air combat element deployed on a Navy amphibious ship on deployment and fly MV-22s in real-world operations.
Lt. Thomas Hendricks, a Naval aviator attached to Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 264, 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit, embarked aboard the Wasp-class amphibious assault ship USS Kearsarge (LHD 3), is one of the first Sailors to fly the Marine aircraft. Hendricks recently flew an MV-22 from Kearsarge to Lincoln during joint operations in the Arabian Sea.
“There are exciting times and there are frustrating times being the first at anything,” said Hendricks, who flew 1,300 miles in one day piloting the Osprey. “But I think ultimately this will be good for the Navy.”
The Navy plans to transition from using the C-2A to the CMV-22B starting in 2020, and expects to have more than 20 fully integrated into the fleet by 2026. Once the new Osprey has started its service in the Navy, the Greyhound will be transitioned out.
Kearsarge is the flagship for the Kearsarge Amphibious Ready Group (ARG). Lincoln is the flagship for Lincoln Carrier Strike Group (CSG). The Kearsarge ARG and Lincoln CSG are deployed to the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations in support of naval operations to ensure maritime stability and security in the Central Region, connecting the Mediterranean and the Pacific through the western Indian Ocean and three strategic choke points.
Source: US Navy
Date: May 22, 2019
The carriers Liaoning and Type 001A rely on airborne early warning helicopters and an integrated radar system to detect enemies. But these systems with their weaker warning capability risk exposing the carrier's position, the report said. Phased radar carried by an airborne early warning helicopter is limited in size. The early warning distance, time and accuracy is thus limited. An aircraft like the KJ-600 has a larger radar, flies higher than a helicopter and sees farther and more clearly.
By: Andrew Chuter
Defense News March 22, 2019