The U.S. Navy has successfully manoeuvred a drone on a U.S. Navy aircraft carrier for the first time – an early step forward in ensuring the MQ-25 uncrewed aerial refueller will integrate into carrier operations.

According to a U.S. Navy news release:

“During an underway demonstration aboard the USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77), Navy flight deck directors – known as “yellow shirts” – used standard hand signals to direct T1 just like any other carrier-based aircraft. Instead of a pilot receiving the commands, however, it was a Boeing MQ-25 Deck Handling Operator (DHO) right beside the “yellow shirt” who commanded the aircraft using a new handheld deck control device.

The demonstration was intended to ensure the design of the MQ-25 will successfully integrate into the carrier environment and to evaluate the functionality, capability and handling qualities of the deck handling system both in day and night conditions. Maneuvers included taxiing on the deck, connecting to the catapult, clearing the landing area and parking on the deck.”

The deck handling demonstration followed a two-year flight test campaign for the Boeing-owned T1 test asset, during which the Boeing and Navy team refuelled three different carrier-based aircraft – an F/A-18 Super Hornet, an E-2D Hawkeye and an F-35C Lightning II.

You can read more on this from Boeing here.

George has a degree in Cyber Security from Glasgow Caledonian University and has a keen interest in naval and cyber security matters and has appeared on national radio and television to discuss current events. He also works for the NHS. George is on Twitter at @geoallison
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Ron Stateside
Ron Stateside
3 months ago

This is the stripped down X47B stealth carrier drone from a few years ago. They decided to do away with the ISR/Combat/Stealth vision and just go with a cheap tanker at distance. Strange air intake. But along with Vixen/Mosquito, this could be what the RN has in mind for the carriers if the 50,000 pound class catapults are eventually fitted.

Jay R
Jay R
3 months ago
Reply to  Ron Stateside

Will the FAA have a carrier based air refuelling solution in service by 2030? Is there no planned buddy buddy refuelling using F35Ns?

Daveyb
Daveyb
3 months ago
Reply to  Jay R

Fingers crossed. The Stingray falls within the specification limits for the MoD’s request for information on a lightweight EMALS and arrested recovery system.

I have yet to hear of any UK involvement with the US Navy’s Stingray program! There are very few details on the Vixen UAS as shown in a number of RN future force slides. But to be useful as a aerial tanker, it will have to be of a similar size to the Stingray.

Last edited 3 months ago by Daveyb
Johan
Johan
3 months ago
Reply to  Jay R

using your fighters as a Buddy – Buddy is a very expensive tanker and their short range of the F35 is not suitable.

fearlesstunafish
fearlesstunafish
3 months ago

correct me if im wrong, but wasn’t the first time the us navy successfully manuevered a drone on a carrier when they used the x47 to test a few years back? u know, back when carrier drones were supposed to be more than just tankers…..

Daveyb
Daveyb
3 months ago

Nah. From memory I believe it goes further back than that. The USN have operated Predator from carriers before. I remember seeing them being used off Croatia during the Bosnian conflict.

Johan
Johan
3 months ago

Why over-complicate the process, why have the operator, next to a yellow vest, when he could be sat in flight ops and push a preset button.

Makes the entire purpose of the drone and the operator over complicated, when it’s supposed to be automated.

Daveyb
Daveyb
3 months ago
Reply to  Johan

This is the first time the aircraft has been on the carrier. Therefore it is prudent to have the operator where they can see what the aircraft is doing, but more importantly to see what is going on around it. So if there is a problem they can immediately take over and halt it if required.

Remember, these are baby steps, before the USN are happy for it to operate on the deck around manned aircraft etc.

Monkey spanker
Monkey spanker
3 months ago

I take it a lift fan and 3 bearing nozzle is out of the question for a drone. Bit complicated I know but with the cost of fitting catapults and arresting gear and keeping it in vtol mode at the same time could it be cheaper to design the drones. Perhaps some lift fan, rotors for take off then jet only etc capable of 300-400 knots.
I think I may have just written why that is not possible🤣🤣🤣

Jonno
Jonno
15 minutes ago

For the UK to have some form of cats and traps is important for interoperability with allies and for drones. To be a one shot (F35B) platform is to waste the potential of the QE Carriers especially now we see the value of Sea Drones. Can their lordships imagine a new Taranto! Hmm