The US Navy said it is delaying the MQ-25A Stingray program after being flagged by the US Department of Defense’s Office of the Inspector General ahead of a milestone decision.
According to the office, the service was planning to declare initial operational capability (IOC) without performing necessary developmental tests and evaluation to expedite delivery and deployment.
The IOC would reportedly allow for the low-rate production to begin and clear the unmanned aircraft for limited operations.
However, the inspector general noted that bypassing standard procedures actually increases the risks of further deployment delays and increases program costs.
The watchdog has recommended delaying the critical production decisions until all appropriate tests and evaluations are conducted.
It also suggested creating MQ‑25 program risk management documentation to identify, assess, and develop measures to mitigate the impact of not performing developmental tests prior to IOC declaration.
The inspector general’s report included the US Navy’s acknowledgment of the warnings indicated by the office.
Without providing specifics, the service said the timeline has been adjusted and it will no longer move forward with an IOC decision this year
However, it emphasized that the MQ-25 is urgently needed by the fleet to aid refueling, as well as intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance missions.
“The MQ‑25A is a crucial step in the Navy meeting its goal of having 60 percent of its [carrier-based] air wings unmanned by 2040. Therefore, the chief of naval operations stated that it was critically important to deploy the MQ‑25A as quickly as possible,” the inspector general acknowledged.
About the Program
The MQ-25 Stingray is set to become the world’s first aircraft carrier-based drone that can provide aerial refueling to military warplanes.
It would reportedly provide enhanced capability and added versatility to US Navy’s Carrier Air Wing and Carrier Strike Group.
In 2018, the service announced that Boeing would design and produce four development models of the state-of-the-art unmanned refueler.