As of October 1st, the US Navy’s first ever squadron to operate its future MQ-25 Stingray carrier-based unmanned tankers from Boeing is established.
However, it actually doesn’t have any MQ-25 Stingray combat drones.
It doesn’t expect to fly any more refined prototypes before the end of 2021.
This unit will be focused in the meantime on training personnel to be as ready as possible to operate and maintain those drones when they begin arriving in the coming years.
The Navy first began the formal processing of standing up Unmanned Carrier Launched Multi-Role Squadron 10, abbreviated VUQ-10, in August, according to an official internal notice.
That document says the official establishment date is October 1st, 2020, and that the unit is located at Naval Base Ventura Country in California, which includes Naval Air Station Point Mugu.
A detachment of Unmanned Patrol Squadron 19 (VUP-19), the Navy’s first MQ-4C Triton maritime surveillance drone unit, is stationed there.
The notice also says that VUQ-10 is assigned to the Navy’s Airborne Command & Control Logistics Wing (ACCLOGWING), which presently oversees the service’s E-2 Hawkeye and C-2 Greyhound fleets.
The US Navy has, in the past, said that the first two warships that will receive the MQ-25 Stingray drones are the Nimitz-class aircraft carriers – USS Dwight D. Eisenhower and USS George H.W. Bush.
The squadron will also be heavily involved in the development of new tactics, techniques, and procedures around the operation of the drones and their place in the Navy’s future carrier air wings.
The Navy has said that it expects to buy at least 72 Stingrays, for a total cost of around $13 billion, and that it hopes to reach initial operational capability with the type in 2024.
As of early October 2020, Boeing is under contract to build four Engineering Development Model (EDM) prototypes, the first of which it hopes to deliver in 2021.
The primary mission of the Stingrays will be to providing aerial refueling support to carrier air wings, a role presently filled by F/A-18E/F Super Hornets carrying buddy refueling stores.
The MQ-25 will allow those manned fighter jets to focus on other missions and otherwise reducing the strain on those aircraft. The drones are also expected to significantly increase the overall reach of the carrier’s fixed wing strike aircraft.
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