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A Double Look at the US Navy’s MQ-25 Competition

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Navy Prioritizing Speed to Field Over Price for MQ-25A Stingray Program (excerpt)

(Source: US Naval Institute News; posted April 9, 2018)

By Sam LaGrone

ST. LOUIS --- After years of requirements churn and program uncertainty, the signal to companies vying to build the Navy’s first operational unmanned carrier aircraft is crystal clear: the Navy wants the MQ-25A Stingray as soon as possible.

On Jan. 3, Boeing, Lockheed Martin and General Atomics all submitted their responses to the Navy’s final request for proposal for the airframe of the Stingray and are expecting the service to select a final design as soon as this summer.

The procurement schedule was accelerated at the behest of Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson, Boeing MQ-25A program manager and former program executive officer for Navy tactical aircraft B.D. Gaddis told reporters on Thursday.

“His number-one priority is the schedule. Price is number two. He wants this airplane out there quickly. The request for proposals and the source selection criteria reflect those priorities really, really well in terms of accelerating the schedule,” Gaddis said.
“He’s putting the pedal to the floor. Normally it takes NAVAIR about 18 months to do a source selection like this. They’re going to do it six months. When the CNO said he wanted to accelerate the schedule, he meant it.”

Outside of the requirements to industry, the service signaled it was bent on moving quickly on the program by including $719 million for the program development and the first four production airframes as part of its Fiscal Year 2019 budget submission.

The program has been moving quickly since the Office of the Secreatary of the Defense watered down the requirements of the Unmanned Carrier-Launched Airborne Surveillance and Strike (UCLASS) concept and pushed companies to focus on the tanking requirement. (end of excerpt)

Click here for the full story, on the USNI website.


Who Has the Advantage In U.S. Navy MQ-25 Competition? (excerpt)

(Source: Aviation Week & Space Technology; posted Apr 03, 2018)

By James Drew

The MQ-25’s mission is to plug carrier air wings’ “tanker gap” and preserve the fatigue life of the F/A-18E/F Super Hornets now assigned to the tanking mission by taking over the air-to-air buddy refueling role.

The Navy is the assigned lead system integrator for the MQ-25, pulling together more than 70 subsystem programs of record and weaving them together for a carrier-suitable unmanned tanker. The Stingray effort has been designated a rapid acquisition Maritime Accelerated Capabilities Office program, along with the Large Displacement Unmanned Undersea Vehicle.

There are three major program elements for the MQ-25: the control system and connectivity segment, carrier CVN segment and air vehicle segment. There are just two key performance parameters: mission tanking and carrier suitability. All else are key system attributes.

The chosen MQ-25 must have provisions to receive fuel from other aircraft. It will come equipped with a sensor ball for “light ISR” (intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance) and have size, weight, power and cooling margin to carry a maritime surveillance radar.

The Navy has not specified how many MQ-25s will embark on the carrier at a time but has instead set the minimum number of refueling hoses that must be available for operations as well as a maximum “spot factor,” the amount of physical space the aircraft and any customized or peculiar support equipment can take up on the flight and hangar decks.

Existing concept refinement contracts awarded to Boeing, General Atomics, Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman will continue through this spring concurrent with the down-selection. (end of excerpt)

Click here for the full story, on the AvWeek website.