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


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.

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