The MQ-25 is the first operational carrier-based unmanned aircraft.
BAE Systems has been awarded contracts by Boeing to supply the Vehicle Management Control System and Identification Friend or Foe (IFF) System for the MQ-25.

“BAE Systems leads the industry in high-integrity fly-by-wire and mission-critical IFF technologies” said Corin Beck, director of Military Aircraft Systems at BAE Systems.

“Our relationship with Boeing started more than four decades ago and has resulted in aircraft that have some of the most advanced avionics and reduced size transponders in the world.”

The Vehicle Management Control System will control all flight surfaces and perform overall vehicle management duties for the MQ-25 unmanned aerial vehicle.

The MQ-25 is the US Navy’s first operational carrier-based unmanned aircraft and is designed to provide a much-needed refueling capability.

The contract, say the firm, supports Boeing’s engineering and manufacturing development program to provide four MQ-25 aircraft to the US Navy for Initial Operational Capability by 2024.

“The MQ-25 program is vital because it will help the US Navy extend the range of the carrier air wing, and Boeing and our industry team is all-in on delivering this capability,” said Dave Bujold, Boeing’s MQ-25 programme director.

“The work we’re doing is also foundational for the future of Boeing – where we’re building autonomous systems from seabed to space.”

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Looks great, hopefully Hms QE will have her own drones one day, stealth refuelling drones would be great for the f35bs and a great range multiplayer.

James Harrington

It does look great, but I think conformal tanks on the F35 is more likely for the RN, (budgets) but how a conformal tank will fit on the F35 is a big question as the wing is almost an extension of the body and I can’t see a blister sitting on the wing / body as in conventional conformal tanks positioning. I read that these proposed tanks are part of the 4th batch of F35’s. Anyone with more knowledge on this please post. Thanks.


Also can f35b with that much fuel take off from a stovl carrier? Fom my limited understanding stovl always meant a compromise in fuel and weapons payload due to take off weight limitations. Any reliable sources on this matter? Thanks ?


Well atlesat British f35bs can take of from the ski ramp with 20% more weight than the American marines can from their ships, they might adopt the ski ramp for the marines one day, I would be very surprised if they don’t, 20% weight on takeoff is huge, but yanks have huge fleets of refuelling tankers so can take off with full weapons load and little fuel and refuel the F35b straight away, they have that luxury, and I’m 100% sure the RAF and RN could use those same assets if they were in the same region, it’s great being… Read more »


The Average American Marine Aviator probably weighs Twice that of the RAF Pilot so double weight saving !


I think once the USMC sees how beneficial the ramp is on the QE, they may look at their own F35B concept of operations. The US Navy are pushing for their Wasp class to do more light carrier duties. I think part of requirement is due to the problems with Ford class. The deployment of US Wasp to the Western Pacific is part of a trial to prove the concept. They have upped the number of F35Bs carried to 12 and are using their V22s for air to air refuelling. The only asset they are missing is an embedded AEW… Read more »


I’m sure they had to redesign some of the aircraft wings for it. It would be great if you could put internal fuel tanks in some of the weapons bays for long missions where you don’t need all the bays.


Conformal tanks and a more efficient engine would be far more cost effective and not consume extra deck and hangar space


Anyone know if the mq25 will be compatible with QE?
AFAIK the f35b does not do buddy refueling, so this would be a major plus for QE carriers as it would greatly extend its combat range while remaining at a safer distance from antiship hypersonics we hear so much from the likes of russia and china. Even if those programs are not as mature as they may pretend, it is something that will need to be considered in the future.

James Whittaker

Would it not be a better to buy the V-22 for air to air refuelling? Another advantage that it can carry a F-35 complete engine, useful for the carriers. I know it’s expensive but it could be used for multiple tasks.


I can see v22 refuel helicopters, but not sure it is fast enough to safely refuel jets. The f35b can hover but this consumes a lot of fuel so the v22 may not be the optimal refueling platform for jets
I honestly do not know


No, is the short answer. QE needs arrestor gear fitting or a barrier at the very least. I’m not sure when the MQ25 is fully loaded with fuel it has the power to weight ratio necessary for a ramp take-off.
Totally agree that the QE class require a dedicated tanker aircraft for the F35s. There is only one drone that could be capable and is in the prototype stages which is the Bell V247 Vigilant tilt-rotor being developed for the USMC. Personally I think this would be the best option as it doesn’t require any deck modifications (nil cost).


Ok thx.
Is installing arrestor wires that difficult? Surely much easier than to retrofit a catapult? Out of curiosity, can the E2 hawkeye theoretically take off from a ramp?

Meirion X

Aircraft could be launched from carriers using gas from cylinders attched to their underside, like ‘drag racer cars’, highly possible!


Been there, done that…


I have seen the video of c130 taking off from a deck before, so technically it is possible for ad hoc use, but is that really sustainable? The rockets are disposable, so it could get expensive, because when your fleet is out you want 24/7 coverage. Also may need to repair the flight deck more often and what about the airframe?


My thinking entirely, just think the Osprey as a generation 1 craft of its type, even if it could do the job is overkill for us. If it’s really needed for other tasks the US Marines will likely be able to help on a specific use basis. Gen 2 craft with all thAt learning curve hopefully incorporated might be a better bet though clearly not for some time.

I wonder with a drone should that option become available, if not arrester hooks a net system could be introduced on the carriers without too much trouble.


Why is the geezer in the kit holding his hand up to an unmanned drone?


Good question, maybe it is being remotely operated by a pilot in an ISO container?


That seems to be the case. I read elsewhere that E-2 Hawkeye pilots are apparently being trained to operate the MQ-25 from a control station on the carrier.


So that the Bloke in the Room 4 thousand miles away can see he’s ready to launch….. FFS.


I think that’s the all clear signal. Or possibly the locomotion by Kylie Minogue.


This is where if we had a bit more cash available, we could develop something using the Rolls Royce version of the F35b engines that wasn’t used. Create a VTOL tanker with a larger wing to create more lift on take off to off set the greater weight using the ramp. It wouldn’t need to be fast or agile, just modest stealth and fly on ahead of the F35’s and be ready to refuel. I wish we had the vision, confidence and funds to this sort of stuff that we would of only a few decades ago. With many nations… Read more »

Peter Elliott

MQ25 has sufficient AI to be able to recognise and act on deck hand signals.