April 2 (UPI) -- Boeing received an $84.7 million contract modification this week to produce three MQ-25 unmanned aerial refueling aircraft for the U.S. Navy.
The deal, announced by both Boeing and the Pentagon Thursday, brings the number of refueling drones Boeing is producing for the Navy to seven.
"We're honored to have the Navy's confidence in our system design and performance that is evident from this additional order," said Dave Bujold, Boeing's MQ-25 program director. "This order establishes uninterrupted production of the first MQ-25 aircraft and lines up with the Navy's MQ-25 test and training plans for fleet introduction. The MQ-25 program is vital in ensuring the Navy can deliver a critical unmanned aerial refueling capability to the carrier air wing."
The modification exercises options from the original contract awarded in August 2018 that include three MQ-25 system demonstration test articles.
The Navy began its efforts to develop an aircraft carrier-based unmanned aerial vehicle in 2006 and plans to deploy 72 MQ-25 tanker drones total.
The service completed the first MQ-25 flight test in September 2019.
Officials expect the fleet, which will cost $13 billion, to be partly operational by 2024.
According to Boeing, the aircraft is now undergoing a planned modification that includes installation of an aerial refueling store under the left wing, and will resume flight testing later this year.