New details of Lockheed Martin’s bid for the MQ-25 Stingray contract reveal a flying wing unmanned tanker with several key components re-used from aircraft already on board the US Navy’s aircraft carriers.
The flying wing MQ-25 in Lockheed’s bid will be powered by the GE Aviation F404 engine and supported by United Technologies Aerospace Systems landing gear, says Rob Weiss, vice-president of Lockheed’s Skunk Works division.
The F404 engine is now used by the Boeing F/A-18C/D Hornet and a more powerful variant, called the F414, is installed on the series of F/A-18E/F Super Hornets and EA-18G Growlers.
The landing gear for Lockheed’s MQ-25 bid is identical to the product that UTAS supplies for the F-35C, which is scheduled to become operational on the navy’s carrier’s by next year, Weiss adds.
More electronic components from the F-35C are embedded in Lockheed’s MQ-25 configuration, but the company declined to specify the hardware.
Lockheed considers the use of familiar systems a competitive advantage as the USN evaluates three competing bids, ine cluding submittals from Boeing and General Atomics Aeronautic Systems.
The aircraft carrier has limited room to store additional spares and personnel as it introduces the unmanned MQ-25 on carriers in the mid-2020s. By leveraging systems and structural components already in the ship’s inventory, the USN avoids the cost of duplicating inventory and training to store and manage spares.
The new details about Lockheed’s bid also reveal a strange disparity in thrust ratings offered by two of the three bidders.
Lockheed’s F404-powered engine offers about 10,000lb-thurst, according to GE. That’s slightly more than the Boeing’s bid, which is powered by a 9,000lb-thrust version of the Rolls-Royce AE3007.
Both Lockheed’s and Boeing’s bids, however, offer a fraction of the thrust of the bid proposed by GA-ASI. The latter’s MQ-25 is powered by Pratt & Whitney Canada PW815 turbofan, which is rated at 16,000lb-thrust.