Sept. 14 (UPI) -- Boeing said Tuesday it's used a MQ-25 Stingray unmanned aircraft to refuel a U.S. Navy F-35C Lightning II fighter jet for the first time.
This was the third mission in three months for the Boeing-owned aircraft that was built primarily for mid-air refueling missions.
The T1 prototype refueled F/A-18 Super Hornet in June, making it the first time an unmanned aircraft refueled another aircraft in midair. In August, it refueled a E-2D Hawkeye.
During the test flight on Monday, a F-35C test pilot from the Navy's Air Test and Evaluation Squadron Two Three successfully conducted a wake survey behind the T1 to ensure its stability before making contact with the unmanned aircraft's refueling drogue and receiving fuel.
"This flight was yet another physical demonstration of the maturity and stability of the MQ-25 aircraft design," Dave Bujold, Boeing's MQ-25 program director, said in a press release.
"Thanks to this latest mission in our accelerated test program, we are confident the MQ-25 aircraft we are building right now will meet the Navy's primary requirement -- delivering fuel safely to the carrier air wing," Bujold said.
The MQ-25 Stingray is expected to play an important role in extending the combat radius of carrier-based fighter jets by hundreds of miles, The National Interest reported.
That's particularly important as China and Russia are investing heavily in anti-ship medium-range ballistic missiles and hypersonic missiles, according to U.S. military officials.
First unveiled in December 2017, Boeing's unmanned aerial tanker is designed to refuel U.S. Navy jets. The company received a contract in 2018 to develop the unmanned tanker drones.
In the coming months, the T1 prototype will be in a deck-handling demonstration on a U.S. Navy carrier, according to Boeing.