General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc. — one of three companies going after a multibillion-dollar U.S. Navy contract to produce a carrier-based refueling aircraft — said it successfully tested the jet engine that will be at the heart of its entry.

The project is significant because the Navy is asking for something new — an unmanned aircraft that will take off from, and land on, an aircraft carrier deck.

Poway-based GA-ASI said earlier in the year that it chose the PW815 model engine from Pratt & Whitney. GA-ASI completed an engine test successfully on April 5, on a test stand using the inlet and exhaust structures it will use on the aircraft. The company publicly disclosed details on May 31, including a video of the test which appeared to be in California’s high desert.

The new Navy jet will be called the MQ-25 Stingray. Its job will be to refuel manned carrier-based fighter aircraft, giving them the ability to reach more distant targets.

“Through the superb efforts of personnel from both companies, we were able to move the test date forward by almost two months, from the originally scheduled date in late May,” said David R. Alexander, president of Aircraft Systems at GA-ASI, in a prepared statement. “This is just another example of how we are working to reduce risk and accelerate capability.”

Teams from Boeing Co. (NYSE: BA) and Lockheed Martin Corp. (NYSE: LMT) are also competing for the MQ-25 contract. Northrop Grumman (NYSE: NOC) left the competition, saying such a project would not provide shareholders an adequate return on investment.

The Navy is expected to award the MQ-25 contract in the coming months.

GA-ASI is part of privately held General Atomics.