U.S. Navy MQ-25 Aerial Refueler's Ground Control Station Tested in Carrier Environment

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  • 08:14 AM, July 4, 2022
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U.S. Navy MQ-25 Aerial Refueler's Ground Control Station Tested in Carrier Environment
MQ-25 unmanned aircraft @Boeing

The Boeing-developed MQ-25 Sting Ray’s Ground Control Station (GCS) was recently evaluated at the Pax river on how it will command the unmanned aircraft in a carrier environment.

MQ-25 will be the world’s first operational carrier-based unmanned aircraft to provide an aerial refueling capability to the fleet.

The tests were conducted by the Navy’s Unmanned Carrier Aviation program office (PMA-268) from June 28-30.

The government team and its two prime industry partners led the effort at the program’s System Test and Integration Lab (STIL), where Lockheed Martin's GCS controlled Boeing's Hardware-in-the-Loop (HITL) air vehicle for the first time. The HITL utilizes aircraft hardware and software to provide a realistic surrogate for the air vehicle.

TJ Maday, MQ-25 labs and integration manager, said the team set a goal to send a basic command between the GCS and the HITL. In order to meet that objective, Boeing and Lockheed Martin needed to deliver functional software for the government to exercise the GCS, the HITL and the network components allowing connectivity between the systems.

"The team met the initial goal ahead of schedule and used the remaining time to exercise more functionality like sending taxi commands," Maday said. "They also simulated a lost link that verified the proper GCS display indicators, which is a critical function to ensure network connectivity between development environments."

This fall the team plans to simulate a complete flight using the HTIL air vehicle and will also demonstrate switching connections “links” to the aircraft as well as adding other aircraft hardware and software into the mix.

“This is how we get to IOC [Initial Operational Capability]—we integrate, test, and learn early and at pace,” said Capt. Sam Messer, PMA-268 program manager.

The MD-5 GCS is part of the Unmanned Carrier Aviation Mission Control System (UMCS), the system-of-systems required for MQ-25A command and control. UMCS also includes carrier and shore site infrastructure modifications, Navy produced ancillary equipment, and integration with command, control, communications, computers and intelligence (C4I) systems.

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