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Drone Refuels Fighter Jet Midair

An unmanned aerial vehicle successfully refueled a U.S. fighter jet in midair for the first time, opening the door to a future where the U.S. Navy carrier-based fleet is augmented by unmanned systems.  The Boeing Co. drone, known as a MQ-25 Stingray, made aviation history Friday after connecting a hose to an F/A-18 Super Hornet and transferring 325 pounds of fuel.

The Super Hornet approached the drone from behind, and the aircraft hovered within 20 feet of each other throughout the refueling process, according to a Boeing news release.  The Navy posted video of the historic interaction to Twitter.

“Unmanned systems alongside our traditional combatant force provide additional capability and capacity to give our warfighters the advantage needed to fight, win and deter potential aggressors,” said Capt. Chad Reed, program manager for the Navy’s Unmanned Carrier Aviation program office.

Reed said the drone is a “force multiplier” that could more strategically redistribute Navy strike fighters and pilots currently assigned to refueling duties.

The Navy and Boeing plan to conduct a similar test on an aircraft carrier later this year.