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Boeing Demos Virtual Manned-Unmanned Aerial Refueling

Boeing demonstrated manned-unmanned teaming of a digital F/A-18 Super Hornet and MQ-25 Stingray unmanned aircraft.

In a simulator lab, a Boeing-led team virtually demonstrated an F/A-18 pilot commanding the drone to refuel the Super Hornet using existing communications links.

Previous refueling demonstrations were controlled by air pilots sitting on an aircraft carrier.

“MQ-25 is designed to typically receive commands from air vehicle pilots on an aircraft carrier,” F/A-18 New Product Development lead Alex Ewing explained.

“This software will add a second option, enabling pilots to initiate commands right from their cockpit.” 

Manned-Unmanned Teaming
A Boeing F/A-18 systems pilot demonstrates the Manned-Unmanned Teaming (MUM-T) capability from his simulator cockpit. Image: Boeing

Reduces Communication Time

The software significantly reduces communication time between the two platforms, offering the pilots greater flexibility in refueling over longer distances.

It paves the way for future teaming capability on both F/A-18 Block II and III Super Hornets.

“The goal of the demonstrations was to make MUM-T refueling as real as possible,” Advanced MQ-25 program director Juan Cajigas said.

“Aerial refueling is like a ballet as two airplanes come together. To be able to direct the activities via a single pilot, safely and efficiently, is a major step forward in aerial refueling technology.”

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