US Navy, Northrop Grumman complete X-47B flight testing

Issue No. 13 | July 01-15, 2012

The first major phase of flight testing the X-47B unmanned combat air system (UCAS) demonstrator aircraft came to a successful conclusion on May 15 when Northrop Grumman Corporation and the US Navy wrapped up testing at Edwards Air Force Base, California.

The airworthiness test phase, which comprised 23 flights by two air vehicles, proved that the X-47B will perform properly at all speeds, weights and altitudes associated with the Navy’s programme. The flights included tests of several aircraft manoeuvres required in the carrier environment, helping to reduce risks associated with operating a tailless, unmanned aircraft from a Navy aircraft carrier.

The first X-47B was moved to Patuxent River in December 2011. It is currently undergoing electromagnetic interference testing, which is designed to demonstrate that the X-47B is compatible with the electromagnetic signal environment of an aircraft carrier.

In 2013, the UCAS-D programme plans to demonstrate the ability of the tailless, autonomous, low-observable relevant X-47B demonstrator to operate safely from a navy aircraft carrier, including launch, recovery, bolter and wave-off performance. Demonstration of autonomous aerial refueling by the X-47B is planned for 2014. The programme will also mature and demonstrate technologies required for future carrier-capable unmanned air system programmes.