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Thursday, March 17, 2011

UCAS-D Starts Flight Envelope Expansion

Northrop Grumman and the U.S. Navy on Thursday announced completion of the second and third flights of the X-47B Unmanned Combat Air System Demonstrator (UCAS-D), less than one month after the aircraft’s inaugural flight.

The flights at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., mark the beginning of the flight envelope expansion process, which will test the aircraft over a broad range of altitudes, airspeeds and operating weights.

During the X-47B's 39-minute second flight on March 1, the aircraft flew to an altitude of 7,500 feet at speeds up to 200 knots. During its 41-minute third flight on March 4, the aircraft reached an altitude of 7,500 feet and a top speed of 180 knots.

The tailless, “low-observable-relevant” demonstrator first flew on Feb. 4, reaching 5,000 feet at a top speed of 180 knots.

Northrop Grumman and the Navy expect to complete the planned 49-flight envelope expansion program at Edwards AFB before moving the first X-47B to Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Md., later this year.

The Navy awarded the UCAS-D prime contract to Northrop Grumman in August 2007. The six-year contract calls for the development of two X-47B fighter-sized aircraft. Carrier trials of the aircraft are planned in 2013.
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