USA develops new stealth unmanned aircraft for aerial refuelling role

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The Northrop Grumman is developing a new type of unmanned carrier capable aircraft for a new aerial refuelling capability for the U.S. Navy’s upcoming unmanned aerial refueling tanker contest.

A modified version of the Northrop Grumman X-47B stealthy unmanned carrier capable aircraft has been revealed being prepared for testing from a U.S. Air Force facility in Palmdale, California. That was reported by aviationanalysis.net.

The modified version of the Northrop Grumman X-47B is called MQ-25A Stingray. First details of Northrop Grumman’s preparations for the MQ-25A bid have emerged in photographs obtained by Aviation Week of a modified X-47B at the U.S. Air Force’s Plant 42 facility in Palmdale, Calif.

According to the Aviation Week report, the aircraft has been integrated with an wing air refueling pod (WARP) under the left wing (seen in the photo) and a drop fuel tank under the right wing.

The WARP is powered by a RAM Air Turbine

Even though not visible from the the picture, the report identifies the X-47B as the second prototype 502 Salty Dog due to presence of the aerial refuelling drogue. The Salty Dog performed the first autonomous aerial refuelling by an unmanned aircraft using Navy’s drogue and chute method, in April 2015, completing the program.

X-47B Unmanned Combat Air Systems (UCAS)

The MQ-25A will be the first operational unmanned carrier borne aircraft of US Navy and is intended to carry fuel and perform autonomous aerial refuelling to extend reach of Navy’s manned aircraft.

Dylan Malyasov is an Editor-in-chief at Defence Blog. This article has been posted with the author’s permission. The views expressed are personal.

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