An unmanned aircraft successfully refueled a U.S. fighter jet in midair for the first time, officials said Monday. A Navy F/A-18 Super Hornet and a Boeing-made drone were briefly connected by a hose as the drone transferred jet fuel to the aircraft in the skies over the Midwest during Friday’s test flight.
During the flight, the Super Hornet approached the drone, known as a MQ-25 Stingray, from behind and were as close as 20 feet from each other, Boeing said. The hose extended from the drone, and the Super Hornet connected with the drogue at the end of the hose to receive the fuel. The Navy posted video of the test flight to Twitter.
The test was conducted from MidAmerica St. Louis Airport in Mascoutah, Illinois, and the Navy and Boeing said they plan to conduct tests on an aircraft carrier later this year.
“This is our mission, an unmanned aircraft that frees our strike fighters from the tanker role, and provides the Carrier Air Wing with greater range, flexibility and capability,” Captain Chad Reed, program manager for the Navy’s Unmanned Carrier Aviation program office, said in a statement.
Data collected during the flight on airwake interactions, guidance and control will be analyzed to see if any adjustments need to be made, Reed said.