A new carrier-launched drone refueled an F-18 multirole fighter jet in flight, marking a significant step forward in the US Navy’s multi-year development of a new platform. platform to extend the attack range of aircraft carriers and carrier-based fighters by extending dwell times and allowing carriers to project power from much greater distances.
The MQ-25 Stingray conducted the first “air refueling operation” between a drone and a manned fighter aircraft from an airport in Illinois, a US Navy statement said.
“During the flight, a Navy F/A-18 Super Hornet fighter jet approached Boeing-owned MQ-25 T1 test asset, conducted an assessment, survey, tracking, and then execution. receive supplies. Thereafter, the T1 successfully refueled the F/A-18,” a US Navy report explains.
“Testing with the T1 will continue over the next few months, including route expansion, engine testing and carrier demonstrations later this year,” the report added.
The existence of a platform of this kind has strategic and tactical implications of great relevance to U.S. Navy planners looking for new ways to address rapidly changing threats. quickly and in some cases, completely new. NI says the introduction of this refueling machine could be the win/lose difference in a possible war between the US and China.
This is believed to be related to the existence of China’s highly advertised “carrier killer” anti-ship missiles DF-21D and DF-26. These weapons, which are regularly test-fired by China, are said to be able to carry out precision strikes against aircraft carriers from a distance of 1,800 or even 3,600km. Looking at the math, if the F / A-18 or F-35 fighters operate with a combat radius of 500km, the aircraft carrier may need to operate within the strike range of the DF-26 missile to be effective. power and make attacks on land.
However, what if an MQ-25 Stingray could, in fact, more than double that range? Carriers can carry out powerful attacks at safer ranges. Interestingly, the growing carrier defense capability could allow US carriers to operate anywhere, despite the massive threat posed by Chinese ballistic missiles, but the ability to Launching effective strikes and maintaining a high sortie rate at longer distances inevitably changes the equation regarding the US Navy’s combat tactics.
Carrier-launched drones not only eliminate the need for a large, non-stealth tanker with fixed wings to perform missions in high-risk areas, but a fighter Refueled by drones will operate for significantly more time in combat zones, hitting multiple targets or re-directing missions as directed by newly arrived intelligence data.