BAE Systems has been awarded a contract by Boeing to enhance the U.S. Navy’s MQ-25 unmanned aerial refueling system with a modernized vehicle management system computer (VMSC). This upgrade aims to boost the computing power of the MQ-25, addressing both obsolescence issues and enhancing overall aircraft performance for future operational needs.
The MQ-25, recognized as the Navy’s inaugural operational carrier-based unmanned aircraft, is primarily tasked with aerial refueling capabilities, thereby alleviating the burden on F/A-18 aircraft and enhancing the fleet’s operational flexibility.
The next-generation VMSC developed by BAE Systems is integral to controlling the MQ-25’s flight surfaces and managing the vehicle. This upgrade is anticipated to introduce advanced functionality, enabling the MQ-25 to fulfill its critical missions more efficiently while consolidating hardware components into a single computer system.
Corin Beck, Senior Director of Military Aircraft Systems for Controls and Avionics Solutions at BAE Systems, highlighted the significance of the upgrade, noting the company’s expertise in flight-critical systems and the potential for the MQ-25 to execute both current and future missions with enhanced capability and reduced hardware requirements.
The VMSC upgrade will incorporate quad-core processors, significantly augmenting the system’s computing power without increasing its size, weight, or power consumption. The selection of a multi-core processor, already qualified on another U.S. military platform, aims to mitigate cost, schedule, and integration risks associated with the MQ-25 program.
By replacing multiple onboard computers with a single, efficient VMSC, the upgrade is expected to improve aircraft reliability and decrease the total lifecycle cost of ownership for the Navy. Additionally, the VMSC is designed to support the expansion of the MQ-25’s mission set, potentially including intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) capabilities, and to establish a foundation for future carrier-based unmanned systems through the implementation of manned-unmanned teaming (MUM-T) operational concepts.
BAE Systems, which also provides the Identification Friend or Foe (IFF) System for the MQ-25, leverages over 40 years of experience in developing and integrating flight control technology for both military and commercial platforms. The VMSC enhancement work is conducted at BAE Systems’ engineering and manufacturing facility in Endicott, New York, underscoring the company’s commitment to advancing the U.S. Navy’s unmanned aerial capabilities.