MQ-25 US Navy Stingray Program

Sub-scale and Full-Scale Aerial Targets and RPAs - Remotely-Piloted Aircraft
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neptune

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Unread post18 Nov 2017, 03:01

blain wrote:..would be more fuel efficient - maximizing the amount of fuel that could be off loaded... to meet the off load requirement at 500 nm.


....could F/A-18D be capable of offloading 14,000 lb. of gas starting at 500 mi. from carrier for a/a refueling?
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Unread post18 Nov 2017, 03:55

Too bad F-35C couldn't be stretched in a couple of spots in the fuselage to provide it plenty of internal space. Of course it would probable spin off a strike version making tankers unnecessary...
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Unread post19 Nov 2017, 16:15

I bet the internal weapons bays could carry quite a bit of gas if they were sealed up :wink:
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Unread post20 Nov 2017, 05:14

....having reviewed the QF-16 program, Boeing is converting the fbw F-16 for $2mil ea. So, "assuming" similar cost for droning the fbw F-18 at 72 ea., the MQ-25 program should be in the order of $153,556,390 and still maintain the 9?G performance without the "tanking software".
...Maybe now we can determine the cost of the "MQ-25 tanking software"!, from Boeing.
...this would be "small potatoes" for NG, maybe not worth the effort!
:shock: :)

....Holy Crxp!, I solved all the OBOGs problem for $2mil. per a/c. How much do "Barcaloungers" cost for each pilot?
:doh:
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Unread post20 Nov 2017, 19:37

The QS-3 sounds like the best plan. There are over 90 already available. They can carry 30k lbs of fuel to 530nm, and have plenty of space for ISR gear, and weapons.
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Unread post21 Nov 2017, 03:37

QS-3 would be nice for utility work. Could bring back the Viking for other duties like ASW and augmenting ECM by the Growlers, too. Maybe the tank bladder is removable and you ferry spares and other material in and out with them, too. Mail, anyone?

QF-117A would be a good land-based bomb truck for dropping smart bombs on a schedule. Unfortunately its poor for utility duty. Could you justify QA-10 as a utility platform?
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Unread post21 Nov 2017, 03:48

madrat wrote:QS-3 would be nice for utility work. Could bring back the Viking for other duties like ASW and augmenting ECM by the Growlers, too. Maybe the tank bladder is removable and you ferry spares and other material in and out with them, too. Mail, anyone?

QF-117A would be a good land-based bomb truck for dropping smart bombs on a schedule. Unfortunately its poor for utility duty. Could you justify QA-10 as a utility platform?


....as proud as Boeing is of the fbw QF-16, there is no doubt that with EOTS added to the QA-10, it would easily allow for ground controlled loitering air support. Perhaps even add a small AESA and fuse EOTS with ISAR for "erie" identification and prioritization. Sniping the officers and squad leaders!
:doh:
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Unread post21 Nov 2017, 16:23

I doubt that a QF-117 would be economically viable.
"The early bird gets the worm but the second mouse gets the cheese."
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Unread post22 Nov 2017, 05:08

SpudmanWP wrote:I doubt that a QF-117 would be economically viable.


Also, why would you event want to do that? There are existing LO UAS that would do a better job at the role.
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Unread post23 Nov 2017, 02:44

You're kidding, right? A paid for platform with no future use that didn't exactly need a pilot 90% of the time isn't viable? Not only do you not break any current platform on the conversion, you have a platform looking for justification for all the lost money they sank into storage overhead. Unlike other legacy aircraft, there isn't a lot you can reclaim nor afford to let just any scrapper take custody.
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Unread post23 Nov 2017, 03:39

It's not viable because it cost's too much to maintain the LO due to its early version. Combine that with economy-of-scale issues makes it not economically viable.

Doing some quick Google-Fu came up with these apples-to-apples numbers. As you can see, it was more expensive to operate than the F-16/15/etc. Add on top of these costs the multiple personnel required to operate a UCAV over an above the normal "1" pilot.

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Unread post27 Nov 2017, 16:58

https://www.flightglobal.com/news/artic ... ar-443649/

NAVAIR studies plugging MQ-25 ground system into carrier ATC

27 November, 2017
BY: Stephen Trimble

Washington DC
As three companies continue vying for the contract to develop the MQ-25 Stingray, the US Navy is quietly making progress with the design of the carrier-based, unmanned tanker aircraft’s mission control system.The Naval Air Warfare Center’s Aircraft Division in Lakehurst, New Jersey, is polling industry sources for a vendor that can develop an interface to plug the MQ-25’s carrier- and shore-based mission control station into the aircraft carrier’s air traffic control system. The request for information released on 22 November is a further sign that Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) is laying the groundwork for the MQ-25 to be ready to enter service by the mid-2020s. Northrop Grumman withdrew from the competition, leaving three bidders still pursuing the contract;

– Boeing,
- General Atomics Aeronautical Systems
- Lockheed Martin

Last April, NAVAIR announced that a demonstration had validated the first software build for the MD-5 unmanned carrier aviation mission control system (UMCS). The control system is divided into two components, according to the Lakehurst center’s RFI;

- The MD-5A will be integrated on the navy’s fleet of aircraft carriers, directing the Boeing F/A-18E/F-sized MQ-25 during takeoffs and landings. The MD-5A version of the UMCS must integrate with the shipboard air traffic control system (SATCC). The new interface that Lakehurst is studying would translate audio messages from a human air vehicle operator for the MQ-25 into voice-over internet protocol, so it can communicate with the SATCC.

- The MD-5B will be a shore-based control system, using satellite communications to monitor and control the aircraft during the mission phase.

The requirements also include a system that can handle classified plaintext data as well as encrypted ciphertext. NAVAIR released a request for proposals for the MQ-25 development contract in October.
:)

....IMHO, NAVAIR intends the MQ-25 to be a launch and recovery tanker, only!

- A radiating, remote controlled tanker would be a liability away from the carrier, to either the stealthy F-35 or even the LO F-18 variants (emanating bait for the trap).

- Only if the tanker were autonomous and observed EMCON could it provide tanking for tasking support in "Indian" country (500 miles from the carrier). Provided it implemented short range (<2.5 miles) FSO laser communications for crypto authorization.
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Unread post29 Nov 2017, 23:01

https://www.flightglobal.com/news/artic ... er-443743/

Navy expects MQ-25 decision by summer

29 November, 2017
BY: Leigh Giangreco

Washington DC
The US Navy could select the winning bidder to develop a carrier-based, unmanned tanker called the MQ-25 Stingray by late summer, a top acquisition official says. After releasing a request for proposals in October, three bidding teams must submit responses by early January. The service will spend the next eight months reviewing proposals and expects to make a final source selection by late summer, Rear Admiral Mark Darrah told reporters. Last year, the navy awarded four risk reduction contracts to;

- Boeing
- General Atomics-Aeronautical Systems Inc
- Northrop Grumman
- Lockheed Martin

But Northrop withdrew from the competition shortly after the navy released the RFP, saying the company could not execute the program based on the terms. As the bidding progresses for the airframe, the Navy continues to develop two more elements of the program. Last week, the navy released a request for information for the Stingray’s carrier- and shore-based mission control station. The new interface would translate audio messages from the MQ-25’s human air vehicle operator into voice-over internet protocol to communicate with the shipboard air traffic control system (SATCC). “People are always focused on the air system part of this,” Darrah says. “There’s three segments, there’s the ground segment, and then the carrier integration segment...we’ve been working on those other two parts of it for the last several years getting that all ready to go, so that when we get that award, we go as quickly as we can.” The navy’s Stingray program has seen several incarnations over its developmental lifetime, evolving from the stealthy strike and reconnaissance platform known as the Unmanned Carrier Launch Airborne Surveillance and Strike (UCLASS) and into the Carrier Based Aerial Refueling System, which the navy designated MQ-25. The service invested more than $839 million into UCLASS until fiscal year 2016, when the navy began risk reduction activities that would transition into the MQ-25 unmanned carrier aviation program, according to budget documents. The service budgeted $114 million in FY2016 as the program transferred to UCA. The navy has $2.4 billion in funding planned from FY2017 through 2022 for system development and demonstration work. The service has scheduled a design review for the air system portion in 2019 and is planning initial operational capability for the mid-2020s.
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Unread post13 Dec 2017, 03:38

http://www.thedrive.com/the-war-zone/13 ... ker-design

General Atomics Gives First Clues About its MQ-25 Drone Tanker Design

By Joseph Trevithick
August 17, 2017

More information has already been emerging about the competitors in the U.S. Navy’s MQ-25 Stingray carrier-based drone program and now General Atomics has given an official, if vague statement about its up-coming proposal. Depending on what airframe the company ends up going with, reported sales of the Avenger design to the U.S. government and potential foreign deals for that aircraft could improve its chances, especially as the Navy continues to water down its own requirements. David Alexander, president of aircraft systems for General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. (GA-ASI), disclosed the first details about its MQ-25 plans on Aug. 16, 2017. In addition to working on the Navy project and pitching Avenger to foreign militaries, GA-ASI is the firm responsible for the U.S. Air Force’s iconic MQ-1 Predator and MQ-9 Reaper unmanned aircraft, as well as the U.S. Army’s Warrior Alpha and MQ-1C Gray Eagle. “We’ve been following this thing for seven years. I think we’ve got it down and we’ve got the right airplane.” Alexander said, according to USNI News. “Our design is optimized.” He did not offer any additional details about how their design would meet the Navy’s needs, which are presently for an unmanned tanker, or confirm whether or not it would be based around the existing Avenger design. General Atomics has not released any MQ-25-specific concept art or other notional specifications. However, when Alexander says General Atomics has been keeping an eye on the Navy’s developments for seven years, he’s talking about when the company first pitched a version of the Avenger for what became known as the Unmanned Combat Air System Demonstrator (UCAS-D) program. The Navy’s initial plan with that carrier-based drone demonstration project to feed into the follow-on Unmanned Carrier-Launched Airborne Surveillance and Strike (UCLASS) project, which aimed to add a pilotless low-observable reconnaissance and strike aircraft to each carrier air wing. The Navy chose Northrop Grumman’s X-47B for the UCAS-D, but did include GA-ASI and its navalized "Sea Avenger" in the early stages of UCLASS. When the service abandoned UCLASS for the much less ambitious Carrier-Based Aerial-Refueling System (CBARS) concept, the company continued as potential contender.

In the tanker role, the existing Sea Avenger or another derivative of the basic airframe could start with certain advantages over the existing UCLASS concepts from Boeing, Lockheed Martin, and Northrop Grumman, all of which are tail-less stealthy flying wing designs with internal payload storage only. The Avenger platform has both an internal payload bay and the ability to carry stores on six under wing pylons. A theoretical load of five drop tanks and the Cobham buddy store refueling pod, which the Navy says each competitor must use in their proposal, plus additional fuel in the internal payload bay would give the aircraft a significantly larger fuel load over its rivals. Northrop Grumman just recently began testing flying an X-47B with a single drop tank under one wing and the buddy pod under the other. The Avenger has also shown promise as a sensor truck if the Navy decides it is still interested in having limited intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance capabilities on the MQ-25. The design could readily accommodate a variety of electro-optical cameras, infrared systems, imaging radars, and signals intelligence packages in its internal payload bay. The ability to carry stores under the wings means it could end up carrying modular, reconfigurable sensor pods, as well. In June 2016, pictures emerged of one of the drones equipped with the MS-177 multispectral sensor system.

Despite all of these capabilities, the Avenger had been something of a dark horse in the UCLASS program, a no-frills design with a modest price tag that wasn’t necessarily the best suited to the projected deep-penetrating strike and surveillance missions in high risk environments. But the design and its lower cost could actually make it a prime contender since the Navy has already transformed its requirements for the MQ-25 so dramatically. In March 2017, Rob Weiss, head of Lockheed Martin's Skunk Works advanced projects office, suggested the changes might require all four competitors to completely overhaul their proposals. Avenger might actually require the least work to get it set up for the far less demanding tanking mission.

Back in 2014, The War Zone’s own Tyler Rogoway, then writing for Foxtrot Alpha, had already suggested this might happen, explaining:

General Atomics' no-frills approach to the low observable, jet powered, unmanned combat air vehicle may actually help when it comes to the Navy's looming Unmanned Carrier Airborne Surveillance and Strike (UCLASS) bid. This program is the Navy's first attempt at integrating an operationally relevant advanced combat drone into its carriers' air wings. Originally it was expected to require a deep penetrating, high subsonic, bat-winged, state of the art design, but now it seems more like its requirements were written based on the Avenger's sales brochure, with a greater focus on cost, surveillance, endurance, rudimentary capabilities like acting as an aerial tanker, and reliability, than deep interdiction against an enemy with an advanced air defense network. Thus General Atomics' "Sea Avenger," an outgrowth design of the baseline Avenger airframe, which was the dark horse in the contest originally, may be poised to take the prize.

Even the Avenger's physical form is low risk in nature, as it borrows the majority of its design attributes from the highly successful, but thirty five year old, "Tacit Blue" design. Yet if the Navy wants something that is by its very design low risk in nature, and more of a sensor and weapon truck than a super-fighter-like autonomous drone, then they have an option that also happens to possess the finest pedigree of any other unmanned systems manufacturer. That is not to say that the USAF, and possibly the CIA, are also not highly interested in the Avenger, which may have been a reason for its fading into the "gray world" over the last few years. Such occurrences often happen once a new technology like this lands a "customer."


Additional customers for the Avenger design could only help drive its cost down even further, making it more attractive to the Navy. The drone has apparently already snagged at least one contract. In his August 2017 press call, GS-ASI’s Alexander said that an unspecified U.S. government agency was flying seven of the unmanned aircraft, though he couldn’t say anything more on the subject. This number of planes is larger than one would expect from a flight test program and would imply there is an operational unit. When the US Air Force tested Avenger as part of its abortive MQ-X project, it acquired just a single example, even though it did send the aircraft to Afghanistan for field tests.

This would fit with an earlier statement that a GS-ASI vice president, Donald Cattell, made on Oct. 26, 2016, in which he revealed that an Avenger had performed a psychological warfare leaflet drop over Syria. As such, it seems mostly likely that this operator is either the U.S. military’s Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) or the CIA, which would fit with earlier reporting. The War Zone has already written in detail about a number of secretive aircraft supporting JSOC and other coalition special operations and intelligence activities against ISIS in both Syria and Iraq. Another possibility is the Missile Defense Agency, although we probably would have heard about such a large acquisition. On top of this U.S. government operator, GS-ASI’s Alexander said a foreign customer, whom he again couldn’t name, was interested in as many as 90 Avengers. The most likely prospective buyer would be the Indian Air Force, which reportedly inquired about purchasing as many as 100 of the aircraft, also known as Predator C, in 2016, according to Reuters.

In June 2017, the U.S. State Department already approved the potential sale of more than 20 maritime surveillance drones from GS-ASI to the Indian Navy. These aircraft were a derivative of the Reaper known as the MQ-9B Guardian, which has a Raytheon SeaVue multi-mode radar mounted prominently under the fuselage. Other countries could use a stealthy penetrating multi-role medium altitude, medium endurance drone like the Avenger. In particular Israel comes to mind. The Avenger could allow the IAF to field an asset that can be used for everything long-range surveillance to penetrating strike and electronic warfare missions. It could even be configured as a "loyal wingman" or a communications relay node. Still, we don't know exactly who might be in active negotiations for the type. Of course, the Navy’s MQ-25 program is still evolving and the requirements could easily change again before any of the competitors have a change to finalize their designs. But a capable, relatively affordable and adaptable existing design, such as Avenger, already in U.S. service and with a potentially strong foreign customer base, could be especially attractive no matter what the service ultimately decides it wants from the Stingrays.
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Unread post19 Dec 2017, 18:37

https://www.defensenews.com/air/2017/12 ... ker-drone/

Boeing offers sneak peek of MQ-25 tanker drone

By: Valerie Insinna
19Dec17

WASHINGTON —
Boeing on Tuesday unveiled its entrant into the U.S. Navy’s MQ-25 tanker drone competition, a prototype wing-body-tail aircraft ready to begin tests this month. So far, Boeing has released one photo of the aircraft facing head-on to the camera, proving that the company has fabricated a prototype and that — as expected — it has moved away from the flying wing design it considered putting forward to the precursor of the MQ-25 program, when the Navy prioritized strike and ISR capabilities for its first carrier-based drone. “It’s an aircraft with the mission in mind, and we felt confident that the wing-body-tail design was the best for the refueling mission,” said Boeing spokeswoman Didi VanNierop, who added that the company incorporated lessons from its Phantom Ray unmanned demonstrator and other Boeing unmanned aerial systems. Boeing’s MQ-25 is slated to conduct engine runs by the end of the year at its St. Louis, Missouri, facility before moving on to deck handling demos early next year, the company said in a news release. During the deck handling demonstrations, the company will take the aircraft to the ramp, which will be marked to the measurements of an aircraft carrier’s flight deck, VanNierop said. There, operators will taxi the aircraft via remote control and move it within the confines of the deck. They will also validate that the aircraft will engage the launch bar of a catapult. However, the aircraft will not fly during those demonstrations, and Boeing has not set a date for first flight, she noted. “Boeing has been delivering carrier aircraft to the Navy for almost 90 years,” Don Gaddis, who leads the refueling system program for Boeing’s Phantom Works, said in a statement. “Our expertise gives us confidence in our approach. We will be ready for flight testing when the engineering and manufacturing development contract is awarded.”

Boeing has stoked conversation about its “mystery aircraft” for about a week. On Dec. 14, the company posted a short video of a stationary aircraft draped in a drop cloth on its Twitter account. “Robust? Check. Ready? Check. Changing future air power? Check it out!” read the caption, which then implored viewers to come back on Dec. 19 to see the plane’s reveal. Some aviation enthusiasts correctly guessed that Boeing would debut its MQ-25 offering, but others speculated that the new Phantom Works aircraft could be a new version of the Bird of Prey subsonic stealth aircraft, its Phantom Ray unmanned combat drone or even a new collaboration with Aurora Flight Sciences, which the company acquired this year. Boeing is the first of the MQ-25 competitors to formally show off a prototype aircraft. General Atomics has published concept art of its MQ-25 — seemingly based on its Avenger UAS, which bears a strong resemblance to the MQ-9 Reaper — and has mounted an intensive advertising campaign featuring a rendering of the aircraft. Lockheed Martin and Boeing have also released concept art of their offerings, but both opted not to show the full aircraft. Instead, the images show the refueling pods of each UAS connected by probe and drogue to a fighter jet. The Navy issued its MQ-25 request for proposals in October with proposals due Jan. 3, and the company plans to down select to a final vendor in summer 2018. From there, the service will purchase an initial buy of four systems before deciding whether to continue on with a 72-aircraft buy, Rear Adm. Mark Darrah, program executive officer for unmanned aviation and strike weapons, told Aviation Week. Competing aircraft must be able to deliver 15,000 pounds of fuel to fighters up to 500 nautical miles away from the carrier.

In October, Northrop Grumman unexpectedly dropped out of the competition — a move that surprised experts who had long held that Northrop’s X-47B was the favorite in the competition, as the company had already demonstrated it could conduct flying operations from a carrier. Northrop’s departure signaled to some analysts that the Navy’s requirements could favor wing-body-tail designs, not the flying wings thought to be proposed by Northrop and Lockheed. Phil Finnegan, a Teal Group analyst who studies UAS, told Defense News in October that Northrop’s exit could pave the way for Boeing to be the new front-runner, given the company’s extensive experience in naval aviation. “Boeing is expected to use parts that are used by the F/A-18 in a bid to keep costs down. It also has considerable experience with tankers since it builds the Air Force tanker,” he said.
:)

....interesting where this design appears to mitigate the non-LO concerns that were such an anathema to the speculators; V tails, single body line, upper fuselage engine intake and mounting and adequate fuselage area for an EOTS type ISR sensor package. Yet, it will be equally interesting to see the competition!
:wink:
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