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Midair refueling has been around for about a century. But late last year Boeing made history when its 51-ft.-long MQ-25 Stingray became the first autonomous aircraft to refuel an aircraft during flight. The U.S. Navy has been testing the system, and if all goes as planned, pilotless Stingrays will gas up entire fleets of fighter jets—thereby extending their range to about 1,000 miles—and enter regular military operations in 2026. The Navy plans on procuring 76 of the Boeing-made drones in total. “MQ-25s [are] going to be a game changer for war fighters,” says Troy Rutherford, Boeing MQ-25 vice president.

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