In a previous test in December 2012, a X-47B aircraft was first hoisted aboard the USS Harry S. Truman (CVN-75) and subsequently demonstrated that the aircraft could be maneuvered safely and accurately on the flight deck, in the elevators and the hangar bay.
A future test is planned to demonstrate autonomous aerial refueling, including the Air Force’s preferred boom/receptacle approach and the Navy’s probe and drogue method. There are currently two X-47B demonstrator aircraft available for flight testing.
Developed by Northrop Grumman, the X-47B is a tailless, autonomous, low-observable aircraft. The X-47B specifications are:
- Length: 38.2 ft (11.63 m)
- Wingspan: 62.1 ft (18.92 m) extended and 30.9 ft folded (9.41 m)
- Height: 10.4 ft (3.10 m)
- Empty weight: 14000 lb (6350 kg)
- Maximum takeoff weight: 44567 lb (20215 kg)
- Maximum payload: 4500 lbs (2000 kg)
- Cruise speed: Mach 0.9
- Range: over 2100 Nautical Miles (3889 km)
- Service ceiling: 40000 ft (12190 m)
The X-47B is unmanned and and fully capable of taking off, flying a preprogrammed mission and returning to base. It can be computer-controlled with a mouse click by a mission operator.
The mission operator monitors the X-47B air operation, but does not have to actively fly the aircraft via remote control as is currently the case for other unmanned systems now in operation.