Northrop Grumman’s X-47B Unmanned Combat Air System Demonstrator (UCAS-D) is scheduled to make its maiden flight early in 2010 at Edwards Air Force Base in California.

The X-47B unmanned aircraft is part of the US Navy’s UCAS-D programme to create a carrier-based unmanned aircraft.

Before being tested, the aircraft will undergo a wide range of ground-based check-outs, alternate aircraft flight testing and lab-based integration testing.

UCAS-D programme manager Captain Martin Deppe said that recent check-out actions on the X-47B system resulted in some propulsion acoustic issues and engine start problems that need to be fixed by engineers.

”Postponing first flight allows them to make those changes and then proceed with a thorough first flight review by a team of Naval Air Systems Command and Northrop Grumman subject matter experts, while remaining on-schedule for sea trials in 2012,” Deppe said.

The X-47B will be the first unmanned jet aircraft capable of safe take off and landing aboard an aircraft carrier and will be able to refuel in-flight for ultra-long mission endurance.