Home » Aviation » Navy Pushing New Name for Unmanned Aerial Tanker: RAQ-25 Stingray

Navy Pushing New Name for Unmanned Aerial Tanker: RAQ-25 Stingray

An X-47B Unmanned Combat Air System (UCAS) demonstrator sits on an aircraft elevator of the aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush (CVN-77) on May 6, 2013. US Navy Photo

An X-47B Unmanned Combat Air System (UCAS) demonstrator sits on an aircraft elevator of the aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush (CVN-77) on May 6, 2013. US Navy Photo

The Navy wants to change the Pentagon imposed designation of its RAQ-25 carrier-based unmanned aerial tanker with its own nom-de-drone – Stingray.

References to the RAQ-25 Stingray unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) are found throughout draft written testimony submitted to Congress ahead of Department of the Navy budget hearings next week, several sources confirmed to USNI News.

The name change is not unexpected. Navy officials told USNI News earlier this month that the service was less than enthusiastic about the name big Pentagon came up with for the RAQ-25 – the Carrier Based Aerial Refueling System (CBARS).

“I’m not sure I’m too much in love with that CBARS name, we’ll come up with something better than that,” Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson said on Feb. 12.

The change in name for the Stingray – formerly: CBARS; UCLASS; N-UCAS; J-UCAS – is the third name for the RAQ-25 in the last three months and indicative of the churn surrounding the restructure of the Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) led-program in the last year.

As part of an Office of the Secretary of Defense led evaluation of all of the services’ UAVs, it was determined to dial back some of the higher-end strike and information, surveillance and reconnaissance requirements for the RAQ-25 and focus the effort on easing the burden on the Boeing F-18E/F Super Hornet fighters that currently serve as tankers for the carrier air wing.

“We’re probably going to drop some of the high-end specs and try to grow the class and increase the survivability [later],” Vice Adm. Joseph Mulloy, deputy chief of naval operations for integration of capabilities and resources, told USNI News earlier this month.
“It has to be more refueling, a little bit of ISR, weapons later and focus on its ability to be the flying truck.

To indicate the shift in emphasis, CBARS was the name of the moment picked by big Pentagon over the holiday lull in December ahead of the Fiscal Year 2017 budget rollout but the service wasn’t “enamored” with the choice, Mulloy said.

A NAVAIR representative did not immediately return a Friday request for comment on the name change to USNI News.

A spokesman for Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus – the official in charge of naming service’s ships – would not confirm the name change to USNI News when asked Friday afternoon.

It’s also unclear if the name Stingray is a reference to Mabus – an advocate for unmanned aviation who said in 2015 the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lighting II Joint Strike Fighter would likely be the last manned strike fighter the Navy would ever buy.

Subtle honorifics in Navy program designations are not new.

The retired Grumman F-14 Tomcat, in part, pays homage to the late Vice Adm. Thomas F. Connolly who crafted the requirements for the interceptor. During development of the F-14, some on the program to refer to the fighter as “Tom’s cat.”

Now the Navy is preparing a presentation of the new Stingray requirements for the Joint Requirements Oversight Council ahead of an anticipated draft request for proposal (RfP) this year to the four companies expected to bid on the RAQ-25 work – General Atomics, Boeing, Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman.

  • StealthFlyer

    If it is primarily a tanker, why is there no “K” in the designation now? Or at least an “M” for multipurpose (MQ-25)? “RAQ” means it is still a recon (ISR), attack, unmanned aircraft “Q.” So, what is this aircraft really supposed to do initially? If a future version is supposed to develop attack capabilities, the “A” can be added then.

    • publius_maximus_III

      Definitely needs the “K” for tanker but not the “C” in “KC” for cargo, since it would not be carrying anything but fuel.

  • B.J. Blazkowicz

    How stupid. They could have saved money by having a drone do the Strike/SEAD job but the Fighter Jock Mafia got their hand on the thing and reduced it to a tanker.

    • James B.

      Burning flight hours using Super Hornets for tankers is a dreadful waste, and Strike/SEAD is still currently a job that benefits from having human crew involved. Trying to build a stealthy strike drone without prior experience would have probably given us a second JSF-type boondoggle.

      • B.J. Blazkowicz

        Drones have been doing job of small bombers for a while now. Pretty much the reason we never had a replacement for the F-111 and F-117.

        Modified V-22s can act as tankers. No need for a drone. Though that’s all the V-22 is good for.

        The extra payload from the UCLASS would have gone a long way to make the Growler more effective in the Strike/DEAD/SEAD roll. While reducing the number of Super Hornet’s needed for each sortie. Giving them an expendable wingman.

        The UCLASS was developing at a rapid pace before it was cancelled. So quick in fact that the Fighter Jock brass had to scramble to kill it or reduce it’s funding so that it wouldn’t give Congress a reason to cut the JSF-C. This is the end result.

        • James B.

          The basic task of taking off and landing from a carrier, which is nowhere near as simple as it seems, but obviously fundamental for a carrier plane, was the entire point of the X-47B project. The next task is to work at actually integrating drones into the airwing, and tanking operations will give airwings a chance to practice flying with drones every single day.

          As for “drones doing the work of small bombers,” I respectfully submit that you haven’t a clue what you are talking about. The F-111, for starters, wasn’t a very small bomber. It, and the F-117, were not directly replaced because they were maintenance nightmares whose functions were replaced by other aircraft (F-15E, B-2, etc) and broader use of precision weapons. They were not replaced in the strike role by drones. Armed drones today are persistent reconnaissance assets, that carry weapons for time-sensitive targets, but they lack the ability to destroy hardened or defended objectives.

          Space on carrier decks is precious, and the Navy is loathe to waste it on platforms they won’t use. Right now, they will use a tanker, but they won’t get much use out of a strike drone, even if it works.

          • B.J. Blazkowicz

            There is no need for a drone tanker. This is job that can be done on the cheap by converted airliners/cargo planes. If you want stealth on you’re tanker. Give them a jammer. Air refueling is difficult enough. It’ll be even more so with a drone doing the job a larger plane would.

            This change in the program is nothing more then a weak attempt to eventuality cancel it.
            It was also done to keep fighter jocks in the seats of planes instead of a computer screen and control panel. Their not going to have many chances to train when old Hornets are falling apart. While the Air Wing is waiting for replacements that won’t arrive until the next decade.

          • James B.

            Where do you propose the Navy put a converted airliner/cargo plane? It doesn’t matter how cheap it is if you can’t fit the rest of the airwing on board.

            The tanker is probably going to have a flying wing shape because that is the most aerodynamically efficient shape, and it will probably be made of carbon fiber to save weight. That will yield a relatively stealthy design, but stealth isn’t the point, and they are only planning to buy what would be worthwhile.

            I realize you don’t have any idea what you are talking about, but the CBARS won’t be stick-and-rudder controlled by a pilot at a control station, it will fly itself and execute automated commands. And by not wasting Hornet flight hours, it will keep the manned aircraft flying longer.

          • B.J. Blazkowicz

            The Navy uses Boeing 707s and and DC-10. While the old V-22’s makes a good enough tanker. Although why the Navy has to indulge in wasting deck space by keeping tankers on deck is known only to the brass.

            I.e their going their going to make a very small block buy and give a flimsy excuse to cancel the program.

            You’re the one with no idea what you’re saying. I’ve seen no video evidence of a drone refueling a manned airplane. Anywhere.

            Drones don’t fly on their own. There is always an airman behind a video screen to make sure the drone does it job or make sure it won’t randomly fire missiles at civilians.
            Ariel refueling is much more complicated then pressing a button to tell a UAV to launch a missile. If something goes wrong. A drone won’t have a crew on board to fix problems that may arise during flight.

  • dyee

    I think the name Stingray is inappropriate. The vehicle has no defensive armament: no sting. A more appropriate name would be cormorant or puffin. Both are seabirds that regurgitate fish to feed their young.

  • publius_maximus_III

    I think it’s a great name. The fuselage is shaped like a stingray, and when extended, the flying boom will look like a tail. Although it has no teeth or claws, it will make it’s mark on our nation’s enemies through that dangerous tail, by refueling others who will.

    • @USS_Fallujah

      Remember the photos are of he X-47B, so the eventual MAQ-25 may look nothing like this. It’s really just a collection of system requirements now, not an aircraft.

      • James B.

        The flying wing is the most efficient design for a medium-speed jet, and they’ve already proven that they can make it work, so I would expect the future drones to look more or less like the X-47B.

  • publius_maximus_III

    The photo shows the drone sitting on the elevator of an aircraft carrier, so I assume it will have a tail hook and catapult launch capability?

    • @USS_Fallujah

      The picture is the X-47B, which may or may not have any resemblance to the “Stingray” when designs are completed, and naturally it will be a CATBAR aircraft, otherwise they would have just gone with a contract mod on a V-22, but no V-22 flying from a carrier deck can carry the requisite amount of fuel to operate as a tanker, and also has major issues with unmanned flight of the rotor/wing aircraft and speed/altitude limitations.
      I think you’ll eventually see the “Stingray use the flying wing model with a wingspan, length & weight approximately in line with an A-6. What they use for engines will be key, looking at balancing endurance and high-sub Mach speed with the need to get airborne with about 35,000lbs of fuel (or fuel and armaments, eventually).

  • Bo

    I bet it took a week-long strategy session with multiple COAs; then, at least ten Flag officers endorsements for this grave decision.

  • Secundius

    Are they going to Build it on the “B” Model Lines or the “C” Model Lines…

  • Rick Lewis

    It’s CBARS, so it seems to me the obvious name is CRABS.

  • Gary Marsden

    If the aircraft were designated KRAQ-25, in order of mission deployment, tanker, recon, attack; drone, wouldn’t Kraken be a worthy name?