Home » Aviation » Navy Wants to Shed RAQ Designation from Stingray Carrier UAV

Navy Wants to Shed RAQ Designation from Stingray Carrier UAV

Northrop Grumman's X-47B is loaded Monday onboard the USS George H.W. Bush (CVN-77) for a planned May, 14 2013 catapult launch. US Navy Photo

Northrop Grumman’s X-47B is loaded Monday onboard the USS George H.W. Bush (CVN-77) for a planned May, 14 2013 catapult launch. US Navy Photo

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Navy wants to continue to tweak what it will call the Stingray — its first carrier-based unmanned aerial vehicle.

The Stingray UAV will be designated a multi-mission unmanned vehicle (MQ) rather than a reconnaissance and attack unmanned vehicle (RAQ), Navy officials confirmed to USNI News on Thursday.

Now the service will work under U.S. Air Force rules to finalize the designation of the MQ-XX Stingray, Navy spokeswoman Capt. Thurraya Kent told USNI News on Thursday. The last aircraft given the MQ designation was the Air Force’s General Atomics MQ-9 Reaper UAV.

The tweak to the designation is a further reflection of the changes in focus for the Navy’s first carrier-based UAV program — previously known as the Unmanned Carrier Launched Surveillance and Strike (UCLASS).

Following an Office of Secretary of Defense (OSD) review of the entire U.S. military UAV surveillance portfolio, big Pentagon decided to emphasize the surveillance and tanking role for Stingray.

“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 last month.
“It has to be more refueling, a little bit of ISR, weapons later and focus on its ability to be the flying truck.”

The result — dubbed Carrier Based Aerial Refueling System (CBARS) by OSD — shed much of the strike requirements planned for UCLASS that in turn prompted the Navy’s push to drop the RAQ prefix for MQ, USNI News understands.

USNI News understands the requirements for Stingray will include pylons for drop fuel tanks for the tanking mission that could be used for weapons in the future.

The service plans to release a draft request for proposal for the MQ-XX Stingray air segment to four companies vying for the business – General Atomics, Northrop Grumman, Lockheed Martin and Boeing – later this year. The final air segment RfP is planned for 2018. The other two elements of the program — the connectivity and ground control segments – will be overseen directly by Naval Air Systems Command.

What the service learns from the aircraft will inform more complex and lethal carrier UAVs in the future.

“There’s just so much to learn about integrating unmanned carrier aviation into the carrier air wing right now and I just want to get started,” Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson said on Thursday at the Credit Suisse-McAleese defense programs conference in Washington, D.C.
“[MQ-XX Stingray] will have a very valid mission for the current and future airwing – ISR and tanking. It will get us unmanned on deck and so we can start to confront those operational challenges and we can learn our way forward.”

  • Rob C.

    I guess they want try not have to reinvent the wheel when Congress forces them to build drone, like it or not. Makes senses, but we have more capable aircraft doing the same job. I know saving lives is important, but i served and the young folks flying manned planes volunteer to join to do it.

    • gunnerv1

      The benefit is that there is LESS crew requirements, Unmanned “Tanker” verses 2-to 4 manned Aircraft with only one “Pilot” (back on the ship in a dark room)

      • USNVO

        And, given that it is a Navy system, the “pilot” will probably be enlisted. Think of the hundreds of millions of dollars not spent on pilot training for pilots to drill holes in the air. Plus, the aircraft will only need to fly when it has to as most of the proficiency flights for the operator can be by simulation since all they see is the screen anyway. Factor in a potentially larger give since the flying part doesn’t have to have ejection seats, oxygen systems, pressuration systems, etc and it makes a lot of sense. Move more expensive (hopefully) attack systems out a less demanding mission and it is a win all around.

        • gunnerv1

          Didn’t even think about that part of it, I just went for the Immediate “savings”, yours will “Bloom” the savings on many levels. “BZ”.

          • USNVO

            And of course the biggest thing is that as a tanker, the unmanned aircraft doesn’t gore any oxen since the F-18 bubbas don’t want to do that mission anyway. So no one will be actively trying to sabotage the program as would be the case if it was an attack program.

  • StealthFlyer

    It looks like the Navy took my suggestion from the Stingray article comment. It certainly makes more sense for a tanker to be designated multi mission (M) instead of recon attack (RA) without even listing its primary tanking mission (K).

  • Herman Moore

    You are right – someone realized keeping the Program alive is way more beneficial…………Welldone to the person who made the decision

  • Sam Culper III

    Anyone know how much fuel the Stringray can carry or transfer?

    • StealthFlyer

      The requirements haven’t been set/released yet, and there are at least 4 aircraft competing to become the Stingray, so you’ll have to stay tuned. My guess is it carries more than the 12,000 lbs the roll-on/roll-off refueling kit provides for the Marines MV-22Bs to transfer in the tanker role.