Friday, May 17, 2013

X-47B Unmanned Combat Air System Launched From Aircraft Carrier For The First Time

The X-47B Unmanned Combat Air System (UCAS) demonstrator was launched from the deck of the USS George H.W. Bush (CVN-77). This marks the first time that an aircraft carrier successfully catapult-launched the X-47B from its flight deck.

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 powered by one Pratt & Whitney F100-220U turbofan.

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.

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