Boeing has announced plans to build a new facility in Illinois to manufacture MQ-25 Stingray unmanned aerial refuelers for the U.S. Navy. The 300,000-square-foot factory, which is scheduled for completion in 2024, will be located at MidAmerica St. Louis Airport (BLV). According to Boeing, the facility will feature “state-of-the-art manufacturing processes and tools, including robotic automation and advanced assembly techniques” and will initially be staffed by around 150 mechanics, engineers and support personnel.
“The team and state-of-the-art technology we’re bringing to the Navy’s MQ-25 program is unprecedented, and we’re incredibly proud to be expanding both as we build the future of autonomous systems in Illinois,” said Kristin Robertson, Boeing Defense, Space & Security vice president and general manager of autonomous systems. “We’ve received great support from MidAmerica Airport and countless dedicated employees, and we’re excited to build the Navy’s first operational, carrier-based unmanned aircraft right here in the Metro East.”
The first unmanned aircraft system (UAS/drone) to successfully refuel another aircraft in flight, the MQ-25 test asset is currently undergoing flight testing. To date, it has been used to refuel an F/A-18 Super Hornet, an E-2D Hawkeye and an F-35C Lightning II. The Navy is expected to procure more than 70 MQ-25 aircraft.