UNMANNED AIRCRAFT: First Pilotless Carrier Jet Comes Aboard UPDATE

November 29, 2012 at 11:59 pm Leave a comment

Meet the Future

Defense Dept. photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Lorenzo J. Burleson, U.S. Navy.

U.S. Navy sailors assist with the on-load of the X-47B Unmanned Combat Air System demonstrator (UCAS-D) aboard the aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75) late last month in Norfolk, Virginia.

This tailless, unmanned strike fighter aircraft is one of two built by Northrop Grumman for testing by the Navy in a carrier environment. Three days after this UCAS-D was delivered by barge to the Truman (Nov. 26),  the other UCAS-D was beinglaunched from a steam-powered catapult — another Navy first — at Patuxent Naval Air Station in Maryland (Nov. 29).

“We are working toward the future integration of unmanned aircraft on the carrier deck, something we didn’t envision 60 years ago when the steam catapult was first built here,” said Vice Admiral David Dunaway, commander of Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR)

The Navy will conduct X-47B carrier deck handling tests aboard the Truman, the first aircraft carrier to host test operations for an unmanned aircraft. Sea trials, set to begin later this month, will gauge the difficulty of integrating an unmanned aircraft into the confined space of a carrier flight deck. But no  test flights off the carrier are scheduled until next summer, according to NAVAIR.

Both X-47Bs are test aircraft designed and built to prove an unmanned jet aircraft can operate off an aircraft carrier at sea. We’ve written more on this for Smithsonian Air & Space magazine’s website here.

For more photos, click here.

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Entry filed under: National Security and Defense, Naval Warfare, Technology, Unmanned Aircraft, Weaponry and Equipment. Tags: , , , , , .

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