The US Navy is making a nearly billion-dollar bet on drones that can make aircraft carriers more lethal

Business Insider | 8/31/2018 | Christopher Woody
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The Navy has awarded a contract for the development of an unmanned refueling aircraft.

The service wants better refueling capability to take pressure off air crews and extend the range of carrier air wings.

Range - Asset - Light - Carrier-killer - Missiles

Longer range is a particularly important asset in light of the "carrier-killer" missiles being developed by rivals like China.

The US Navy awarded Boeing an $805 million contract to develop refueling drones in what the service's top officer called a "historic" step toward making the fleet's carriers more effective and more deadly.

Contract - Design - Development - Delivery - Support

The contract provides for the design, development, testing, delivery, and support of four MQ-25A unmanned aerial refueling vehicles. It includes integration into the carrier air wing with initial operational capability by 2024.

It is a fixed-price contract, meaning the Navy is not on the hook for costs beyond the $805.3 million award. Boeing will reportedly get $79 million of the total award to start.

Navy - Program - Aircraft - Cost - James

The Navy expects the program to yield 72 aircraft with a total cost of about $13 billion, James Geurts, the service's assistant secretary for research, development, and acquisition, told Defense News.

Geurts also called the MQ-25A "a hallmark acquisition program."

Day - Chief - Naval - Operations - Adm

"This is an historic day," Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson said in a release.

The Navy has been working on a drone that can operate on carriers for some time. The unmanned carrier-launched airborne surveillance and strike program was scrapped in 2016 and reoriented toward developing an unmanned tanker.

Navy - MQ-25A - Carrier - Air - Performance

According to the Navy, the MQ-25A will bolster the carrier air wing's performance and efficiency while extending their operating range and tanking capability.

Richardson told Defense News that the new drone will free up the Super Hornet aircraft currently dedicated to providing tanker support to other aircraft.

Day - Event - Shift - Way - Requirements

"We will look back on this day and recognize that this event represents a dramatic shift in the way we define warfighting requirements, work...
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