The US Navy’s X-47B unmanned combat air system (UCAS) demonstrator has successfully completed first at-sea test phase aboard the eighth Nimitz-class nuclear powered aircraft carrier, the USS Harry S Truman (CVN 75).
Conducted at Naval Station Norfolk and off the coast of Virginia, the trials involved successful integration of the UCAS demonstrator with Truman’s flight deck using an arm-mounted control display unit (CDU), remotely controlling and moving over the arresting wire, to and from the catapults and to various spotting positions.
The strike-fighter-sized aircraft also conducted fuelling operations and had its digital engine controls tested within electromagnetic field surrounded environment.
The N-UCAS Program Office (PMA-268) programme manager Don Blottenberger said that the tests proved X-47B design and operation capability, as well as its compatibility with carrier’s flight deck, hangar bays and communication systems.
Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems UCAS-D programme director Mike Mackey said: "We proved that the X-47B air system is mature and can perform flawlessly in the most hostile electromagnetic environment on earth, a Nimitz-class navy aircraft carrier."
Data collected throughout the two-week test period from the aircraft’s performance will contribute to future unmanned aviation programmes, Mackey added.
The tailless aircraft is scheduled to undergo further trials such as shore-based arrested landings at the Naval Air Station (NAS) Patuxent River, as well as use another carrier in mid-2013.
Carrier trials being conducted in spring 2013 will include landings and catapult launches, in addition to arrested landings and aerial refuelling tests.
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.
Image: US Navy’s X-47B unmanned aircraft aboard the USS Harry S. Truman ship. Photo: courtesy of Northrop Grumman Corp.