The U.S. Navy on Wednesday conducted the first arrested landing onto an aircraft carrier with Northrop Grumman's X-47B Unmanned Combat Air System (UCAS) carrier demonstration aircraft.
(The X-47B aboard USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77) after safely landing. During the July 10 test, the X-47B caught the 3 wire with the aircraft’s tailhook. Photo, courtesy of NAVAIR.)
After taking off from the Naval Air Station (NAS) at Patuxent River, Md., the X-47B completed a 35 minute flight, reaching 145 knots prior to landing on the deck of the USS George H.W. Bush off the coast of Virginia. Through GPS coordinates and advanced avionics, the flight of the X-47B was controlled almost entirely by computers.
“This demonstration has enabled us to merge industry and government technologies together which will enable the U.S. Navy to pursue future unmanned aviation carrier capabilities,” said Rear Adm. Mat Winter, who oversees the program executive office for unmanned aviation and strike weapons.
Over the last decade, the Navy has been working on integrating unmanned aircraft into its carrier operations. Wednesday's arrested landing was the final test flight of an eight month program, which included a catapult launch from an aircraft carrier in May
The X-47B, with a 62-foot wingspan and capability of reaching 40,000 feet, is a demonstration aircraft, designed to simulate future sea-based missions for the Navy.
Results from the recent test flights will help the Navy to develop parameters for a next-generation variant of the X-47B, as it looks to launch its Unmanned Carrier-Launched Surveillance and Strike program (UCLASS), which it is currently seeking proposals for.
“Our team has executed all major program objectives and developed the concept of operations and demonstrated technologies for a future unmanned carrier-based aircraft capability," said Capt. Jaime Engdahl, Navy UCAS program manager. "[Today] we have proven we can seamlessly integrate unmanned systems into the carrier environment."
Related: Unmanned Systems News