Home » Aviation » Navy FY 2019 Budget Request Pushes MQ-25A Stingray to Mid-2020s


Navy FY 2019 Budget Request Pushes MQ-25A Stingray to Mid-2020s

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 PENTAGON – The Navy’s MQ-25A Stingray unmanned aerial tanker project, previously described as a rapid acquisition program for the department, is now not set to be integrated into the air wing until 2026, officials said on Monday.

The Navy is proposing spending $719 million on research and development for the MQ-25A and now anticipates purchasing the first four aircraft in 2023. The service doesn’t expect to reach initial operational capability until Fiscal Year 2026, Rear Adm. Brian Luther, the deputy assistant secretary of the Navy for budget and the director of fiscal management on the Chief of Naval Operations staff, said during a Fiscal Year 2019 budget briefing Monday.

The Navy wants unmanned vehicles to launch and recover from an aircraft carrier at sea, just like any manned aircraft, and meet piloted jets at range for refueling during mission. Previously, the Navy announced aircraft carriers USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN-69) and USS George H.W. Bush (CVN-77) would be the first to operate the MQ-25A.

The request for proposal for the MQ-25A was issued to industry in October. The service at the time did not indicate when the Stingrays would enter the fleet, but USNI News understands Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson wants the UAVs on carrier decks as early as 2020.

The Navy has not responded to USNI News questions regarding the budget request’s indication that the MQ-25A program has been delayed.

Overall, the Navy wants to spend $19 billion on purchasing airframes in FY 2019, a proposed funding increase of 28 percent from last year’s request of $14.9 billion. The Navy’s proposal represents 34 percent of the Department of Defense’s planned $55.2 billion in spending on both piloted and unmanned aircraft for all military branches.

The Navy’s plan to purchase 120 airframes in FY 2019 represents a 32-percent jump from the number of aircraft the service proposed buying in 2018.

A year ago, the service proposed only a modest aviation buy, actually lowering its request by about $1 billion from the FY 2017 request.

An F-35C Lightning II assigned to the Grim Reapers of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 101 lands on the flight deck of the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72). Abraham Lincoln is underway conducting training after successful completion of carrier incremental availability. US Navy Photo

The Navy’s planned purchase of nine Navy-variant Lockheed Martin F-35C Lighting II Joint Strike Fighters more than doubles the Navy’s 2018 request of four such JSFs. Meanwhile, the Navy’s plan to purchase 20 Marine F-35B variant matches its 2018 purchase plan.

After the increased F-35 spending, the next largest aviation purchase increase is for aircraft modifications. In 2019, the Navy plans to spend $3.2 billion, a 19-percent increase from the $2.7 billion the Navy proposed spending on modifications in 2018.

In 2019, the Navy plans to purchase the following aircraft:

  • 29 F-35 fighters (20 F-35B Marine variant and 9 F-35C Navy variant) with a request of $3.9 billion
  • 24 Boeing F/A-18E/F fighter jets, with a request of $2 billion
  • 10 Boeing P-8A Poseidon aircraft, with a request of $2 billion
  • 4 Northrop Grumman E-2D Advanced Hawkeye carrier-based early warning aircraft, with a request of $952.7 million
  • 7 Bell-Boeing MV-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft, with a request of $1 billion
  • 25 Bell Helicopter AH-IZ Viper and UH-IY Venom Marine Corps attack and utility helicopters, with a request of $878.9 million
  • 8 Sikorsky CH-53K King Stallion Marine Corps heavy-lift helicopter, with a request of $1.6 billion
  • 6 Sikorsky VH-92A Presidential Helicopter, with a request of $894 million

  • Bailey Zhang

    1.6 billion for 8 CH53K? As the production ramp up, the price should go down right?

    • kye154

      Nope, and it certainly didn’t for any of the other aircraft ever produced since 1963. The contractors squeeze every dime they can from Uncle Sam, and Uncle Sam is sucker enough to pay it too..

      • Bailey Zhang

        Tax payers pay for it

      • sferrin

        Want some cheese with that?

        • muzzleloader

          Welcome to Kye’s World, where America is an imperialist has been, where America has no business in any part of the world, where the USN has no right to be on any body of water except Lake Erie, and why bother anyway, because China rules.

    • sferrin

      Yes. Development units are always more expensive.

  • Marauder 2048

    26 years from UCAV-N (A2/AD strike/SEAD) to MQ-25 (milkcow) IOC. Wow…

  • Ed L

    Time to bring back those 90 or so S-3’s sitting in storage. They make good tankers and could do ASW again

    • Masau80

      None of the S-3s in the boneyard are ASW capable anymore. Less weight, more gas to pass!

  • b2

    I’m confused. The CNO wanted this on the deck in less than two years and the last Airboss was pushing right behind less than 6 months ago!.. IOC is a tricky word I reckon…. Ships had been identified to host the new “vehicle” and the control system is already “built”. All this according to Navy leadership. Now this. Scratches head…
    The S-3B re-use option with/without a major re-cap to mission systems seems to have been “discussed and rejected” several times since 2011 and before… What about making the S-3B the vehicle for MQ-25 until 2026, just to get ahead? Might work. As an ex-S-3 bubba, Lex Luther must know this or he’s talking to the wrong folks! LOL.
    Tired of being a gadfly for the most utilitarian carrier jet ever flown from a CV/CVN/.. but facts is facts re the Viking. Gotta wonder what the LM proposal for MQ-25 looks like? Of course, the USN status quo is to just buy more E/Fs and make them tankers. A Circe Jerk.

    • jollyrogers89

      The original requirement formrapid acquisition was for a recovery tanker. This has morphed into a mission tanker now. More give at a greater distance from the carrier.

      • b2

        Not entirely “VF-84 J-Rog”, according to the last Airboss, it has to go out 500 miles and give xxxxk Lbs. T
        The S-3 can do that w/internal/external carriage of fuel, especially unmanned. No structural upgrade required.. Same max gross 50.5 lb cat shot…. And remember, it is already “carrier suitable”, inherently. Technically, that phrase means a helluva lot more than meets the eye and especially if you are an engineer with NA experience or an experienced carrier pilot… As a Jolly Roger you know that.
        No developmental plastic/composite device is even a decade away to accomplishing any of that if they started today… believe me. At best they could push out a half-a prototype by 2028…Look at the recent record…
        IMO, they know it too.. but leadership is just going through the motions… No one wants to really brand anything with their name anymore like Rickover w/Nukes or Boyd w/F-16, Heineman w/A-4… You know…they may fail…

  • DaSaint

    So much for rapid acquisition and demanding off-the-shelf designs.
    I can’t even say that it’s the aviation community that pushed back. But who knows…
    SMFH.

    • El Kabong

      What happened to the great work done by the Big Safari office?

      Seems success can’t be tolerated.

  • sferrin

    Regarding the use of “rapid”, to paraphrase Inigo Montoya, “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”

  • Joseph Cipriano

    Rapid acquisition is a joke. Congress broke the acquisition system with Goldwater-Nicholes. It has never recovered.

    • Zorcon, Fidei Defensor

      Show me anything congress has not broken?

  • D. Jones

    Where is the realization that the most likely country we will need to DEFEND ourselves against is China?

    They’re working like crazy on missile tech and our wonderful “stealth” F35’s have no legs. Any conflict and our conventional tankers will get pegged by long-range Chicom missiles, leaving the F35’s out of breath.

    The per-unit costs on these airframes are gag-inducing. Yes, we get that some are new, but nearly everything is far above advertised prices (which are never met after the contracts are signed)

    We had a superlative plane in the F22 which did have legs, which somebody in an administration decided to kill. Yes, not Navy, but the stuff that really works gets its legs cut out and a never ending parade of new and more complicated overpriced junque follows.

    It’s almost as if the Chicoms (or somebody, but my money is the Chinese) are paying decision-makers to continually kill stuff that works and burn funds on a hundred different new programs, most of which will fail. Another example would be the Seawolf, which got eliminated. But junque like the DD(x) and LCS get funded and would have paid for many more Seawolves.

    We keep planning and building small lot high-dollar platforms for places like the sandbox and completely ignore Job #1: DEFENSE of the US from foreign aggressors.

  • b2

    Looking at that list again I would now call it procurements for the “Department of the Marines”….
    Look at who’s running the show! SECNAV is a one tour USMC H-46 pilot turned venture capitalist but he was in the Navy League, SECDEF is the anointed Marine Warrior Monk (Amen) and USMC Gen/ Mr. Kelly at the right hand of… Don’t think that SemperFi influence isn’t being used? Go over the list again. US Navy, BOHICA!

  • Marcd30319

    Retirement in 2019 can’t come too soon for you, old-timer, double-dipping into two taxpayer-provided pots.

  • Bubblehead

    Very disappointed in USN strategy, or lack there of. Refueling capability for short legged carrier aircraft should be one of USN top priorities and top priority for carrier aviation. It is pretty clear China’s stretegy is to target AWACs & Refueling aircraft. I guess that is the USN strategy. They won’t give China any refuelers to target?

    I am going to assume with this delay, the idea of adding refueling bladders to V22 is back on the table for an interim solution. Or maybe with in increased production of F18 fighers the USN is not as worried about using up its flight hours refueling aircraft?