New Boeing factory to produce carrier-based drone for US Navy

The MQ-25 drone air-to-air refuelling an F/A-18 fighter
© Boeing
The MQ-25 drone air-to-air refuelling an F/A-18 fighter

A new Boeing factory in Illinois will build the US Navy’s first operational carrier-based unmanned aircraft, the MQ-25.

The 300,000ft2 facility at MidAmerica St Louis Airport will bring digital aircraft design and production to the service and up to 300 advanced manufacturing jobs.

Scheduled for completion in 2024, the new factory will initially employ approximately 150 mechanics, engineers and support staff who will build the MQ-15 Stingray.

Boeing digitally engineered the entire MQ-25 aircraft and its systems, resulting in high-fidelity models that are used to drive quality, efficiency and flexibility throughout the production and sustainment process.

The new MQ-25 facility will include state-of-the-art manufacturing processes and tools, including robotic automation and advanced assembly techniques, to improve product quality and employee ergonomics.

A render of the fully built factory, which is due to be complete in 2024
A render of the fully-built factory, which is due to be complete in 2024

“The team and state-of-the-art technology we’re bringing to the Navy’s MQ-25 programme is unprecedented, and we’re incredibly proud to be expanding both as we build the future of autonomous systems in Illinois,” said Kristin Robertson, vice president and general manager of autonomous systems, Boeing Defense, Space & Security. “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.”

For two years, Boeing and the US Navy have been flight testing the Boeing-owned MQ-25 test asset from MidAmerica Airport, where in recent missions it has refuelled an F/A-18 Super Hornet, an E-2D Hawkeye and an F-35C.

The US Navy intends to procure more than 70 MQ-25 to help extend the range of the carrier air wing, and the majority of those will be built in the new facility.

Boeing is currently producing the first seven MQ-25, plus two ground test articles, at its St. Louis facilities, and they will be transported to MidAmerica for flight test.

The new MQ-25 facility will be in addition to existing manufacturing operations at Boeing St Clair, which produces components for the CH-47 Chinook, F/A-18 Super Hornet, F-15 and other defence products.


Boeing [**]

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