MQ-25 Stingray

General Atomics Sea Avenger Concept

The MQ-25 Stingray evolved from the ashes of the U.S. Navy's Unmanned Carrier Launched Surveillance and Strike (UCLASS) program. The program was introduced publicly in the Navy's fiscal year 2017 budget submission.  The aircrafted was redesignated the MQ-25 (M for multipurpose) from the RAQ-25 – the Carrier Based Aerial Refueling System (CBARS).

Stingray's primary mission will be airborne tanking, but the aircraft's pylons will also be engineered to fire missiles and drop bombs.  The tanking mission is necessary to relieve the carriers' F/A-18s that currently perform that role.  Additionally, the requirements necessary to make UCLASS a low signature (stealthy) penetrating air frame have been removed for Stingray.

The Navy is expected to award an air vehicle contract to one prime contractor in the second quarter of 2018 with the initial delivery scheduled by 2021. The Navy earmarked $2.16 billion for the MQ-25 program to fiscal year 2021. Additionally, $350 million was approved for transfer by Congress that had been set aside for continued air vehicle demonstrations in fiscal 2016.  

The same four primes that were in contention for UCLASS are expected to compete for the Stingray contract, though the request for proposal will also be open to new entrants. 

MQ-25 Stingray Headlines

MQ-25 Program Office Tests Simulated Mission Control System

NAVAL AIR SYSTEMS COMMAND, PATUXENT RIVER, Md. -- The Navy’s MQ-25 program completed its first demonstration representing how the mission control system located aboard the aircraft carrier will control and transmit information to an unmanned air vehicle in the future.

The April 11 demonstration validated the first build of the MD-5 Unmanned Carrier Aviation Mission Control System (UMCS), a combined hardware and software product, using representative shipboard equipment and a simulated air vehicle at NAS Patuxent River.

Captain Duarte, PMA-268 program manager, observed the test event and said he was very pleased with the progress the team has made over the last year. The government team worked across multiple program offices, Navy and Air Force commands in addition to industry partners to prepare for the demonstration.

“As Lead Systems Integrator (LSI), we have the ability to really drive interoperability and affordability across the program,” he said.  “We have had the opportunity to leverage many existing technologies and capabilities from other Navy platforms and integrate them into this program.”

Within the LSI construct, PMA-268 maintains responsibility for the architecture, configuration, production, development and sustainment of the UMCS. The UMCS hardware builds on NAVSEA Common Display System (CDS) and Common Processing System (CPS) from DDG-1000 and other Aegis ships.  It also incorporates the Navy’s Common Control System (CCS), a software architecture managed by PMA-281 that features a common framework, user interface and components designed for use with a variety of unmanned systems.

The PMA-268 team integrated an open mission systems platform to support the reuse of government owned mission management, mission planning and sensor control applications. UMCS 1.0 demonstrated that third party software can coexist with the CCS framework, thereby proving the UMCS architecture is viable, Duarte said.

During the demo, the UMCS communicated with a Mobile Aviation Interoperability Lab (MAIL) truck, simulating a UAV, verifying command and control.  The team tested connectivity between the UMCS and shipboard network systems and verified voice trunking (internet protocol to serial) capability between the air vehicle operator and the simulated UAV.  The team also performed limited control and data dissemination between the UMCS and simulated UAV to include Automatic Identification System (AIS) detection, Electro-optical/Infrared (EO/IR) Camera operation and dynamic mission re-planning.

“The Surface Aviation Interoperability Lab (SAIL) and System Test & Integration Laboratory (STIL) were integral in making this demonstration a success,” said Jaimie Grubb, UMCS team lead. “By doing demos in the lab first, we are able to prove the control system concept before providing the UMCS to the air system vendor and undergoing test, which provides significant risk reduction as well as schedule and cost savings.”

This demonstration is the first of a continuing, annual series to demonstrate UMCS capabilities as development of the system progresses. Future demonstrations will show the ability to control a small UAS and establish the process for flight and cybersecurity approval s and the integration of software specific to the MQ-25A air vehicle.

The UMCS, part of the MQ-25’s Control System & Connectivity (CS&C) segment, is one component of the system. The MQ-25 effort also includes an air segment and a carrier segment. The program plans to release a request for proposal for the air segment this summer and is working shipboard installations for the carrier segment.

Operationally, the MQ-25 will provide a robust organic refueling capability to make better use of the Navy’s combat strike fighters and extend the range of the carrier air wing.  It will also have a secondary intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capability.

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Final MQ-25 Design Contract Awarded to Northrop Grumman

20 October 2016 - The Naval Air Systems Command, Patuxent River, Maryland, has awarded Northrop Grumman Systems Corporation, of El Segundo, California, a $35,752,362 cost-plus-fixed-fee contract to conduct risk reduction activities in support of the MQ-25 Unmanned Carrier Aviation Air System.

Work will be performed in Rancho Bernardo, California (50 percent); Space Park, California (30 percent); and Palmdale, California (20 percent), and is expected to be completed in October 2017. This risk reduction contract is the last of four to be awarded, following those to General Atomics, Boeing, and Lockheed Martin. 

General Atomics Awarded MQ-25 Design Contract

5 October 2016 - The Naval Air Systems Command, Patuxent River, Maryland, has awarded General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc., Poway, California, a $43,736,111 cost-plus-fixed-fee contract to conduct risk reduction activities in support of the MQ-25 Unmanned Carrier Aviation Air System.

The company joins Boeing and Lockheed which were awarded similar contracts last month to refine concepts and develop trade space for requirements generation in advance of the engineering and manufacturing development phase of the program. Work will be performed in Poway, California (90 percent); Cedar Rapids, Iowa (5 percent); and Rancho Bernardo, California (5 percent), and is expected to be completed in October 2017.

Boeing and Lockheed Receive MQ-25 Contracts

26 September 2016 - The Naval Air Systems Command, Patuxent River, Maryland, has awarded Boeing and Lockheed Martin each $43 million cost-plus-fixed-fee contracts to conduct risk reduction activities in support of the MQ-25 unmanned carrier aviation air system.

The contracts will cover refinement of concepts and development of trade space for requirements generation in advance of the engineering and manufacturing development phase of the program.  Work for Boeing's contract will be performed in St. Louis, Missouri (99 percent); and Puget Sound, Washington (1 percent), and is expected to be completed in October 2017.  Lockheed will perform work in Palmdale, California (98 percent); and Fort Worth, Texas (2 percent) through October 2017.

Government Accounting Office Releases CBARS Report

25 March 2016 - The GAO released a report entitled, "Unmanned Carrier-Based Aircraft System: Debate over System’s Role Led to Focus on Aerial Refueling" which assesses the current status of the restructured CBARS program (now referred to as the MQ-25 Stingray).

According to the report, the Navy intends to invest more than $2 billion in the CBARS program from fiscal years 2017 through 2021. That investment mirrors the three segments of the original UCLASS program: an air system segment; an aircraft carrier segment; and a control system and connectivity segment. The report anticipates a contract award in 2018 leading to the CBAR's initial operating capability of the mid-2020s. IOC for UCLASS was initially intended to be 2017.