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Boeing validates software for future manned unmanned refueling missions

Boeing press release | May 1, 2024

Estimated reading time 2 minutes, 45 seconds.

An F/A-18F Super Hornet from the US Navy Air Test and Evaluation Squadron VX-9 (Vampires) makes a burn pass upon arrival at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh. Mike Killian photo

Boeing has further developed its manned-unmanned teaming (MUM-T) technology using a digital F/A-18 Super Hornet and MQ-25 Stingray.

The testing shows that the software is maturing for future use by the US Navy and that there is potential to deploy the team capability on both F/A-18 Block II and III Super Hornets.

In a simulator laboratory, a team led by Boeing virtually demonstrated an F/A-18 pilot commanding an unmanned MQ-25 to release a tanker and refuel the Super Hornet, using existing communication connections on both platforms.

The new software is a continuation of tests that Boeing has previously conducted. In addition to the upgraded software, test teams used hardware and data links already installed on both platforms to run the final software, further demonstrating Boeing’s willingness to deliver this capability to the Navy.

“MQ-25 is designed to typically receive commands from aircraft carrier pilots. This software adds a second option, allowing pilots to initiate commands directly from their cockpit,” said Alex Ewing, head of F/A-18 new product development.

The Boeing-made software will significantly reduce the time it takes for an F/A-18 to communicate with an MQ-25, giving pilots more flexibility when refueling from greater distances.

“The goal of the demonstrations was to make MUM-T refueling as realistic as possible,” said Juan Cajigas, director of the Advanced MQ-25 program. “Aerial refueling is like a ballet when two planes come together. Being able to manage operations safely and efficiently via one pilot is a major step forward in air refueling technology.”

This press release was prepared and distributed by Boeing.