Boeing and the US Navy carried out the first test flight of the unmanned carriere based refueller being developed for the US Navy under an US$ 805 Million programme. The contract was awarded to Boeing in August 2017. The aircraft undertook a two hour autonomous flight under the supervision of Boeing test pilots. The aircraft completed an autonomous taxi and takeoff. Thereafter, it flew a predetermined route to validate the aircraft’s basic flight functions and operations with the ground station. The test craft is being used for early learning and discovery to meet the goals of the U.S. Navy’s accelerated acquisition program.
Boeing MQ-25 Program Director Dave Bujold stated, ” Seeing MQ-25 in the sky is a testament to our Boeing and Navy team working the technology, systems and processes that are helping get MQ-25 to the carrier. This aircraft and its flight test program ensures we’re delivering the MQ-25 to the carrier fleet with the safety, reliability and capability the U.S. Navy needs to conduct its vital mission. “
The test aircraft is named the T1. T1 received its experimental airworthiness certificate from the FAA in September, verifying that the air vehicle meets the agency’s requirements for safe flight. Testing will continue with T1 to further early learning and discovery that advances major systems and software development. Induction of this aircraft will improve the operational capability of the US Navy’s carrier based fighter aircraft as those fighters which are used for refueller duties would now be deployed in their primary role as combat aircraft.