GA-ASI Designs a New UAV For U.S. Navy’s MQ-25 Contest

 - February 16, 2018, 3:03 AM
GA-ASI says that it has designed a new jet-powered UAV for the U.S. Navy’s MQ-25 tanker requirement, rather than bid the Sea Avenger shown here. (Photo: GA-ASI)

In a surprise announcement, General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc. (GA-ASI) revealed that it had submitted a new design for the U.S. Navy’s MQ-25 Stingray unmanned tanker requirement. It had previously touted the Sea Avenger version of its Predator C jet UAV for the requirement. GA-ASI also revealed an extensive list of partners in its bid, including Boeing, even though that company has made its own alternative bid for this requirement.

“Our offering exceeds all of the Navy's requirements, including carrier suitability…at the lowest technical and schedule risk,” GA-ASI claimed. The company’s Stingray design is evidently much larger and/or heavier than that of the Sea Avenger, since it is powered by a Pratt & Whitney PW815 high-bypass turbofan that provides almost four times more thrust than the PW545B engine in the Predator C. The PW800’s main application to date has been Gulfstream’s new G500 and G600 business jets.

Boeing’s Autonomous Systems Division is playing an unspecified role in the GA-ASI bid. This is the division that includes Insitu, the maker of the Scan Eagle and Integrator/Blackjack UAVs, which Boeing acquired a few years ago. But last December the Boeing Phantom Works announced that it was making a bid for the MQ-25 requirement, and had already flown its design.

The other partners in the GA-ASI bid are UTC Aerospace Systems (landing gear design and build); L3 Technologies (communications system); BAE Systems (mission planning and cybersecurity software); Rockwell Collins (navigation and networked radio); and GKN Aerospace Fokker (tail hook). GA-ASI also noted that another company within its group, General Atomics Electromagnetic Systems, has designed the new Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System (EMALS) for U.S. Navy aircraft carriers.

The MQ-25 requirement has evolved in a long and complicated process. Lockheed Martin is also bidding but has released no meaningful detail on its proposal. Northrop Grumman declined to bid, reportedly because it did not want to accept the fixed-price engineering and manufacturing demonstration (EMD) contract terms that the Navy is offering. These terms may be a reason why GA-ASI has gathered such a large team for its bid, since the six other companies may be risk-sharing partners.