Lockheed Martin Proposes ‘Clean Sheet’ MQ-25 for Navy Carriers
By RICHARD R. BURGESS, Managing Editor
NATIONAL HARBOR, Md.— Lockheed Martin’s entry into the Navy’s competition for the MQ-25 Stingray unmanned carrier-based aerial refueling aircraft is a tailless flying wing that the company says is a new design, but also uses some proven systems in service on other aircraft.
“This a clean sheet design, a purpose-built tanker,” said Rob Weiss, vice president and general manager of Lockheed Martin Skunk Works, speaking to reporters April 9 at the Navy League’s Sea-Air-Space Exposition at National Harbor, Maryland, along with Jeff Babione, who soon will replace the retiring Weiss.
The Lockheed single-engine flying wing proposal features two under-wing hard points for mounting an aerial refueling hose-and-reel pod and an external fuel tank. Sensors are mounted in the nose, one apparently a camera for a carrier crewman to use to taxi the aircraft on the flight deck. There appears to be a satellite antenna fairing behind the nose. A video of the concept shown during the briefing shows two spoilers atop the wing, one on each side.
The video also showed the aircraft dropping two Joint Standoff Weapons. Weiss said there is no Navy requirement for the aircraft to carry ordnance, but the company is prepared to integrate ordnance should such a requirement develop. But the aircraft will have a “basic ISR [intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance] capability.”
Weiss said the Skunk Works did a lot of trade studies, including leveraging the work it did for the Navy’s previous carrier UAS program, the UCLASS (Unmanned Carrier-Launched Air Strike Surveillance) system. The company deciding that modifying its plan for UCLASS was not optimum.
“Frankly, we were not satisfied with that configuration,” Weiss said, “so we started with a clean sheet.”
Skunk Works decided on a “high level of reuse on this airplane,” including some avionics, but most notably the landing gear and the engine. The GE Engines F404 — the proven engine used on the Navy’s F/A-1E/F Super Hornet strike fighter — was selected, which also would simplify engine logistics. The landing gear — built by United Technologies Aerospace Systems — is that same as that used on the Lockheed Martin F-35C Lightning II strike fighter.
Weiss said the flying wing design avoids the weight of a tail and fuselage and enables the wing to carry more fuel. He said there is no requirement for the aircraft to be stealthily low-observable but pointed out that the flying wing is a planform that “would lend itself to a low-observable design” should Navy go in that direction.
Weiss said the Skunk Works design would be able to operate at “altitudes and speeds that are commensurate with the strike assets.”
He anticipates that the MQ-25 will be a real breakthrough in the learning opportunity it will provide for manned/unmanned teaming.