Boeing’s New Refueling Drone Allows NAVY Fighter Pilots to Fill up at 30,000 Feet

You’re running low, and you need to refuel.  No big deal, right?  You pull into the nearest gas station, stop at a pump, grab a hose and in five minutes, you’re back on your way again.

Now imagine your “gas station” is 30,000 feet up in the air –

  • you’re refueling on the fly (literally), traveling more than 300 miles an hour
  • the “gas station attendant” has to drop a 20-foot hose down to your fuel tank
  • pumping a thousand gallons a minute
  • oh, and you’re doing all this over the middle of the ocean.

That’s life for Navy fighter pilots.  But now, those pilots are about to get a new gas station…

(Photo from Boeing)

…Boeing’s MQ-25, a refueling drone.

The MQ-25 will be based on the Navy’s aircraft carriers – taking off (via catapult) and landing just like the fighter planes it fuels up.  Now though, the gas station “attendant” isn’t 30,000 feet up in the air – she’ll be back on ship, controlling the fuel drone remotely.

In action, it’ll look something like this…

(Photo from Boeing)

In practice, it’ll mean the Navy’s fighters get an extra three to four hundred miles in the air before they have to land.  And it’ll free up fighter planes that today have been repurposed to be refueling planes.  All that means more protection, for longer, in the skies – that’s a good thing.

And having fuel where you need it, when you need it – that’s a good thing too:  whether you’re flying an F/A 18 at 30,000 feet, or driving across town in your F-150.

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