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FAA approves registration number for Boeing MQ-25 prototype

Boeing has received a US aircraft registration for the newly-unveiled demonstrator at the heart of its bid to make up to 72 MQ-25 Stingray carrier-based unmanned tankers for the US Navy, the company confirms to FlightGlobal.

The Federal Aviation Administration assigned registration number, N234MQ, to Boeing for a St. Louis-aircraft model dubbed the “T1” on 26 December. The registration omits several typical details, including the model of the turbofan engine that powers the aircraft.

Boeing is one of three bidders for a development contract scheduled to be awarded later this year. The deadline to submit bids for the three teams – Boeing, General Atomics Aeronautical Systems and Lockheed Martin – passed on 3 January.

The bid deadline came as Boeing decided to reveal more details about its approach to the MQ-25 design. A photo tweeted by Boeing on 19 December offered a nose-on glimpse of the design, revealing extremely canted stablisers and a conventional wing. The inlet in the 19 December appeared to be obscured.

However, a follow-video posted on 3 January by Boeing confirmed that the inlet in the nose is actually an auxiliary intake or perhaps a cooling vent. The real inlet for the turbofan engine is instead mounted dorsally and flush with the fuselage. It’s a rare configuration choice that evokes memories of Northrop’s Tacit Blue stealth demonstrator in the early 1980s.

The video also revealed other intriguing details about Boeing’s MQ-25 design, including a retractable tail hook under the fuselage.

But other details, including the full length of the wings and stabilisers – are still not shown.

General Atomics previously has released a generic concept revealing a design that mixes elements of the fuselage and wing of the MQ-9 Reaper with the propulsion and empennage of the Predator C Avenger.

Lockheed Martin has released only a fragment of its MQ-25 concept aircraft, showing only part of the underside of a wing and a refueling pod.

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