Modified X-47B being used as MQ-25 Stingray Testbed

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An X-47B Unmanned Combat Air Vehicle demonstrator, like this one seen landing aboard the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71) during trials in August 2014, has been modified as a testbed for the future MQ-25 Stingray Carrier Based Air Refueling System.
Naval Air Systems Command

At least one of the two Northrop Grumman X-47B Unmanned Combat Air Vehicle technology demonstrators, has been modified as a testbed for the MQ-25 Stingray Carrier Based Air Refueling System (CBARS) programme as part of risk-reduction efforts connected with the programme. The X-47B was modified at Northrop Grumman’s Palmdale California facility with an externally mounted air refuelling pod and external fuel tank. It was previously used to demonstrate the capability of UAVs to operate from aircraft carriers.

In 2017 the US Navy awarded CBARS riskreduction contracts to four companies – Lockheed Martin, Boeing, General Atomics and Northrop Grumman – to develop competing designs for the MQ-25 Stingray Carrier Based Air Refueling System. The programme, which has a $5 billion cost ceiling, is expected to issue a request for proposals before the end of 2017 and downselect one of the four designs in 2018. The UAV could be in service as soon as 2019– 2020. Half of the total MQ-25 development costs will be spent by fiscal year 2022.

David C Isby