Boeing Announces New MQ-25 Factory

Boeing will build the U.S. Navy's MQ-25 Stingray unmanned aerial refueler at a new 300,000 sq. ft. facility at MidAmerica St. Louis Airport in Illinois.
Credit: Boeing

Boeing announced Sept. 17 it is building a new facility at the MidAmerica St. Louis Airport in Illinois to manufacture the U.S. Navy’s unmanned MQ-25 Stingray tanker.

The 300,000-sq.-ft. facility, expected to be completed in 2024, will feature “state-of-the-art” manufacturing processes, including robotic automation and other advanced assembly techniques, the company said in its announcement. Boeing plans to employ 150 mechanics and engineers at the location, a number that could grow to 300 if orders for the aircraft increase.

“The world’s largest aerospace company is doubling down on Illinois because of our unparalleled assets in the transportation and logistics sector and the world-class talent of our people,” Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker said in the announcement.

Boeing is spending about $200 million to build the factory at the location, where it also builds components for the CH-47, F/A-18, F-15, and other systems. It also is the location of flight testing for the current Boeing-owned MQ-25 T1 test asset and other company aircraft. 

The test asset has successfully refueled a Navy F/A-18, E-2D, and F-35C so far. Since the test program began in September 2019, the test aircraft has flown more than 120 hr. The Navy and Boeing expect to conduct a deck handling demonstration aboard a carrier in the coming months.

The MQ-25 program office and engineering team is in nearby St. Louis and will remain there as the new facility becomes operational. Initial production of seven aircraft also is underway at the St. Louis facility.

“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’s vice president and general manager of Autonomous Systems, in the announcement.

Boeing expects to produce about 70 MQ-25s for the Navy, but “we see the MQ-25 as a franchise program with potential for more orders in the future,” the company said.

Brian Everstine

Brian Everstine is the Pentagon Editor for Aviation Week, based in Washington, D.C. Before joining Aviation Week in August 2021, he covered the Pentagon for Air Force Magazine. Brian began covering defense aviation in 2011 as a reporter for Military Times.