First Air-to-Air Refueling Using an Unmanned Aircraft
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.