First Air-to-Air Refueling Using an Unmanned Aircraft

The Boeing MQ-25 T1 test asset transfers fuel to a U.S. Navy F/A-18 Super Hornet, marking the first time in history that an unmanned aircraft has refueled another aircraft. (Photo by Kevin Flynn)

For the first time in history, the U.S. Navy and Boeing demonstrated the Boeing MQ-25™ T1 unmanned aircraft refueling an F/A-18 Super Hornet in flight. During a test flight, the Boeing aircraft extended the hose and drogue and safely transferred jet fuel to the F/A-18 Super Hornet.

During the initial part of the flight, the F/A-18 test pilot flew in close formation behind the MQ-25 to ensure stability prior to refueling – a maneuver that required as little as 20 feet of separation between the MQ-25 T1 and the F/A-18 refueling probe. Both aircraft were flying at operationally relevant speeds and altitudes.

With the evaluation safely completed, the MQ-25 drogue was extended and the F/A-18 pilot moved in to plug with the unmanned aircraft and receive the scheduled fuel offload.