- The Washington Times - Monday, June 7, 2021

A drone has refueled a U.S. Navy fighter jet in flight for the first time ever, marking a major advance in how the military will team manned and unmanned aircraft in combat.

On June 4, a Navy F-18 Super Hornet successfully linked up with the MQ-25 Stingray drone in the skies over MidAmerica Airport in Mascoutah, Illinois, Navy officials announced Monday.

The pilot of the F-18 flew up behind the MQ-25, then maneuvered and plugged into the unmanned tanker. It successfully transferred fuel from one aircraft to the other, Navy officials said.

“This is our mission, an unmanned aircraft that frees our strike fighters from the tanker role and provides the Carrier Air Wing with greater range, flexibility and capability,” said Navy Capt. Chad Reed, program manager for the Navy’s Unmanned Carrier Aviation program office.

Testing will continue over the next several months with demonstrations aboard an aircraft carrier planned for later this year, officials said.

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