Moving Target: US-Navy MQ-25 'Stingray' Program

Boeing entry into the MQ-25 program has been selected as the winner
With most aviation observers expecting Northrop-Grumman X-47B to be awarded the contract for the new US-Navy autonomous stealth tanker drone - Northop unexpectedly pulled out of the deal and Boeing MQ-25 was awarded the contract instead.
We think the Navy's new mission of "air refueling tanker" had something to do with the Northrop decision, as their autonomous drone was so obviously designed to a precision strike mission - not air-to-air tanking.
Northrop-Grumman X-47
A stealthy air-to-air tanker is frankly a ridiculous notion and a waste of money. Neither the Northrop-Grumman X-47B or the Boeing MQ-25A can be stealthy with either external fuel tanks or their hose-and-drogue(s) extended.
On the other hand, why would you want stealthy air-tankers? Aircrews need to find their tankers in the vastness of the airspace they operate.
Lockheed's solution for the MQ-25
Navy aircrews do not need an air tanker that is hard to find visually or on radar. Any stealth requirements for the MQ-25 program remain simply ridiculous. The whole MQ-25 program has evolved into an uneven waste of money - and should have a zero requirement for any stealth. Zero.

General Atomics MQ-25 solution.
MQ-25 should require off-the-shelf technologies, that maximize efficiency with low acquisition, and operational costs that your aircrews can find day/night and in bad weather - not some smallish and illusive stealthy object.
Boeing winning entry
The Boeing machine is surely leveraging F-18 undercarriage and perhaps other things from the Hornet parts bin. Stealth requirements for the MQ-25 program appear to have been changed (been relaxed) due to the straight wing design of the Boeing machine.

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  1. It's nice to see an F/A-18 rocking CFTs, do we know how much they hold yet?
    This one also appears to be using an IRST on the front of its centerline fuel tank.

  2. Yup, anything that extend F/A-18 combat radius is a good thing. The world oceans are becoming much more dangerous places than they were in the 1990s. You need to aircraft that can reach out and protect or project further away. What the USN really need are Su-33s (built under licence) with US avionics, US radar/weapons and US engines. On the Hornet CTF

    "The new conformal fuel tanks can hold 515 gallons of fuel in a low-drag configuration, an increase from the current tank’s 480-gallon capacity, according to officials with Naval Air Systems Command, or NAVAIR."

    "“The F/A-18’s Achilles heel has always been range,” Wertheim said. “When you have adequate tanking that’s not as big of an issue. But when you have a high-threat environment where tankers might not be able to get in or survive, you’ve got to make sure you have extended range capabilities.”

    In a more permissive environment, the extended fuel tanks will allow those jets to loiter or patrol for longer periods, Wertheim said.

    “This is part of the changing nature of getting back to a capability that was kind of given up on after the Cold War,” he said."

    - Boresight


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