The Navy has been seeking an unmanned aerial system with refueling capabilities to support and extend the combat range of deployed Boeing F/A-18 Super Hornet, Boeing EA-18G Growler, and Lockheed Martin F-35C fighters.
Boeing says their version of the MQ-25, unveiled Tuesday, can be integrated with the same catapult, launch and recovery system on a U.S. Navy carrier to deploy the unmanned aerial system.
The company teased the unveiling of the MQ-25 a week ago on its Twitter account, showing the aircraft under a black sheet, and saying, "Robust? Check. Ready? Check hanging future air power? Check it out! See the reveal 12/19! #PhantomWorks." Phantom Works is Boeing's in-house design team.
"Boeing has been delivering carrier aircraft to the Navy for almost 90 years," Don Gaddis, a retired admiral who leads the refueling system program for Phantom Works, said in a press release. "Our expertise gives us confidence in our approach. We will be ready for flight testing when the engineering and manufacturing development contract is awarded."
Boeing's unmanned aerial system is completing engine runs before heading to the next phase, which involves deck handling demonstrations, in early 2018.
In October, Northrop Grumman pulled out of the U.S. Navy's competition for the MQ-25 unmanned tanker aircraft, leaving General Atomics, Lockheed Martin and Boeing to pitch their concepts.
Proposals for the MQ-25, the final requirements for which were released in October, are due to the Navy on January 3.