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US Navy, BAE Systems to upgrade MQ-25 on-board computing

Boeing's MQ-25A Stingray UAV tanker that the company is developing for the US Navy. (Boeing)

BAE Systems has been selected to execute upgrade and modernisation work for the US Navy's (USN's) MQ-25A Stingray unmanned aerial refueller, with programme officials aiming to increase on-board computing performance and revamp several legacy components and subsystems aboard the unmanned aerial system (UAS).

The overall modernisation programme envisioned for the MQ-25's vehicle management system computer (VMSC), in the end, “improves aircraft performance and allows for future capability growth”, according to a 12 February BAE Systems statement.

The upgrade work by BAE Systems will be carried out as part of a USD36 million deal with Boeing to remove and upgrade obsolete components from the UAS, as the programme prepares to enter low-rate initial production (LRIP). USN officials and their Boeing counterparts inked the deal in November 2023.

The MQ-25A is the air platform segment of the USN's Stingray Carrier-Based Unmanned Aerial System (CBUAS), which consists of the UAS and the MD-5 Unmanned Carrier Aviation Mission Control System (UMCS).

In 2018 Boeing beat out General Atomics and Northrop Grumman to secure the USD805 million development and production deal for the MQ-25. The VMSC upgrade will focus specifically on replacing the current core processor aboard the VMSC with a quad-core processor that will “increase computing power while optimising size, weight, and power footprint on the aircraft”, according to the 12 February statement.

Company officials declined to comment on which specific multicore processor will be used in the VMSC upgrade, but they did note the selected processor “has recently completed qualification on another US military platform”.

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