The US Navy’s Northrop Grumman-built X-47B unmanned combat air system (UCAS) demonstrator has successfully completed the first fly-in arrested landing trials at the navy’s shore-based catapult and arresting gear complex at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Maryland, US.
During testing, the demonstrator used navigation approach to stop by clutching a carrier representative MK-7 arresting gear, which is extended across the aircraft landing area, using its landing tailhook.
The shore-based trials, which marks the beginning of the final phase of the testing, has enabled the US Navy/Northrop Grumman team to control test conditions prior to taking the aircraft to the ship.
US Navy UCAS programme manager captain Jaime Engdahl said that the trials marked a critical step closer for integrating the unmanned systems seamlessly into navy carrier operations.
"The entire system has performed very well across a large set of shore-based testing events including aircraft performance, flying qualities, navigation performance, catapult launches, and precision landings designed to stress system operation," Engdahl said.
Northrop Grumman vice president and Navy UCAS programme manager Carl Johnson said: "The X-47B air vehicle performs exactly as predicted by the modelling, simulation and surrogate testing we did early in the UCAS-D programme."
Developed as part of the UCAS carrier demonstration (UCAS-D) programme, X-47B will not only enable future carrier air wings to deliver seamless intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities, but also provide readiness cost avoidance and training opportunities.
The UCAS-D industry team comprises Pratt & Whitney, Lockheed Martin, GKN Aerospace, Eaton, General Electric, UTC Aerospace Systems, Dell, Honeywell, Moog, Wind River, Parker Aerospace and Rockwell Collins.
The tailless demonstrator is scheduled to undergo sea-based carrier testing aboard the tenth Nimitz-class nuclear powered aircraft carrier, the USS George H W Bush (CVN 77), later this month.
Image: A US Navy’s X-47B demonstrator conducts shore-based arrested landing trails. Photo: courtesy of Northrop Grumman Corp.