Boeing Scores Big Win in Navy Drone Competition

Boeing Scores Big Win in Navy Drone Competition

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Boeing has emerged victorious in the competition to build the U.S. Navy’s first carrier-based drone, a major shot in the arm for a contractor that, despite its size and aeronautics expertise, has struggled in recent high-profile aircraft competitions.

The U.S. Navy on Thursday announced an $805 million contract for the «design, development, fabrication, test, verification, certification, delivery, and support» of four MQ-25A Stingray drones. Assuming all goes well, the Navy is expected to order upward of 72 of the aircraft at a cost of more than $10 billion.

Boeing beat out competing bids from Lockheed Martin (NYSE: LMT) and privately held General Atomics to win the award. General Atomics was seen by many as the favorite to win the competition due to its expected cost advantages, and Boeing in February hedged its bets by signing on as a subcontractor on the GA effort.

Northrop Grumman unexpectedly dropped out of the competition last October, leaving three finalists.

A Long Route To Sea

The award comes 12 years after the Navy started talking about bringing drones to the carrier deck and represents a much less ambitious project than what was originally envisioned. The Navy had originally wanted an aircraft with stealth characteristics and the ability to carry a large payload of weapons and later focused on long-range surveillance and intelligence missions.

The final competition was for a tanker aircraft, with the Stingray designed to increase the effective strike range of a Navy carrier’s air wing by up to 400 nautical miles, nearly doubling a carrier’s air attack range. It would also decrease the wear and tear on other Naval aircraft, most notably the F/A-18 Super Hornet fleet. The Hornets are currently the primary carrier tanker, with the Navy estimating that upward of 30% of the Hornet fleet is devoted to aerial refuelling.

The Navy hopes to have the first four Stingrays operational on carrier decks by 2024, an aggressive timeline. In addition to the final design, production, and testing work required of the drones, the Navy is also working to develop a carrier-based control station and to network the drones to the other carrier aircraft.

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1 Comment

  1. But the new Contract for new F 18s don't count as a major contract for Boing ?

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