Boeing has moved a test prototype of the MQ-25 Stingray carrier-based aerial refueling drone from the firm’s facility in St. Louis to a small regional airport in Illinois as the company prepares to begin flight testing later this year, Defense One reported Monday.
Dave Bujold, program manager for the drone project at Boeing, said in an interview the prototype will serve as an early learning platform for the first U.S. Navy aircraft, which is expected to be operational in fiscal 2021.
“So every flight test mission that we do with out Boeing asset allows us to pull faster data, better understanding, software development and all that for the Navy aircraft,” Bujold said. “So when the Navy’s first combat-built … aircraft will fly, we will have already been flying the same airframe, weight and class.”
Boeing won a potential $804M contract in August 2018 to build four MQ-25 drones for the Navy.