X-47B Unmanned Combat Air System Demonstrator

The US Navy’s Northrop Grumman-built X-47B unmanned combat air system has successfully completed an additional round of carrier testing.

During the testing, conducted onboard fourth Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71), the unmanned air system demonstrated its integration capability within the aircraft carrier environment.

Unmanned Carrier Aviation programme manager, captain Beau Duarte, said the X-47 demonstrated its capability in winds of higher magnitude and differing directions.

"This resulted in more stimulus provided to the aircraft’s guidance and control algorithms and a more robust verification of its GPS autoland capability," Duarte said.

Tests included deck handling, carrier approaches and landings in off-nominal wind conditions, digitised ship systems interfaces and concept of operations development.

Unmanned Combat Air System deputy programme manager Barbara Weathers said the US Navy and industry team have performed productive flight operations in the CVN environment.

"The carrier systems installation and system checkouts were performed in record time, quite an amazing feat," Weathers said.

"The carrier systems installation and system checkouts were performed in record time, quite an amazing feat."

The X-47B aircraft conducted a total of 26 total deck touchdowns including 21 precise touch-and-goes and five arrested landings as well as five catapults, five commanded and two autonomous wave-offs over the flight test period.

Programme executive officer for unmanned aviation and strike weapons, rear admiral Matt Winter, said the trials demonstrated the feasibility and realistic path to achieving the manned / unmanned air wing of the future.

"The navy is committed to developing, maturing, and fielding unmanned carrier aviation capabilities into our carrier air wings and carrier environments," Winter said.

The X-47B aircraft will undergo further land and carrier based testing to mature unmanned technologies and refine concept of operations to further inform future unmanned carrier requirements for the US Navy.

Image: US Navy’s X-47B unmanned aircraft onboard an aircraft carrier. Photo: courtesy of Northop Grumman.

Defence Technology