As you know, the Navy is developing an unmanned tanker for carrier work.
“After months of deliberation, the name and designation of the Navy’s first carrier unmanned aerial vehicle are now official: MQ-25A Stingray …” (1)
Really? It takes us “months of deliberation” just to come up with the name and designation?! No wonder we can’t build an F-35 in under two decades! Well, at least the hard part of coming up with a cool sounding name is out of the way.
I wonder how long it will take us to develop an unmanned tanker if it took us months just to come up with a name? Of course, we’ll be able to develop a simple tanker in a lot less time than the F-35, won’t we?
“The emphasis on the first airframe in the program is primarily aerial refueling, officials said. ’We’re probably going to drop some of the high-end specs and try to grow the class and increase the survivability [later],’ Vice Adm. Joseph Mulloy, deputy chief of naval operations for integration of capabilities and resources, told USNI News in February. ’It has to be more refueling, a little bit of ISR, weapons later and focus on its ability to be the flying truck.’ ” (1)
Well, that should shorten the developmental cycle, right?
“The final RfP [Request for Proposal] for the air segment is set for 2018.” (1)
It’s going to take us a year and years just to generate an RfP? That doesn’t bode well for how long the actual aircraft will take to be fielded.
“The service hopes to have the first Stingrays operational in the 2020s.” (1)
Let’s be generous and say the MQ-25 will be operational in 2025. That’s 9 years from now. Nine years to field a not terribly advanced tanker with a little ISR capability – and, of course, we know that schedule will slip. So, close to a decade to field a simple unmanned tanker based on existing unmanned technology. No wonder the F-35 is taking so long! There is something seriously wrong with our developmental cycles.
If it is truly going to take a decade or more to field a tanker, maybe we should be seriously looking at bringing back the S-3 Viking as an interim tanker. The Marines are bringing old F-18s back from the boneyard in short order so why not bring the Viking back? If we don’t, we’re looking at ten more years of wear and tear on our front line tanker-Hornets. That’s wear and tear we can’t afford.
(1)USNI website, “It’s Official: ‘MQ-25A Stingray’ U.S. Navy’s Name For First Carrier UAV”, Sam LaGrone,
July 15, 2016,