X-47B completes first carrier-based catapult launch
The X-47B Unmanned Combat Air System (UCAS) demonstrator has become the first unmanned aircraft to be launched by catapult from a ship, following the completion of the system’s first catapult launch from the deck of the USS George HW Bush (CVN-77).
The launch, conducted by Northrop Grumman and the US Navy, took place while the carrier was under way off the coast of Virginia on 14 May. Following launch, the tailless, strike-fighter-sized aircraft flew autonomously back to Naval Air Station Patuxent River where it landed safely 65 minutes later.
Capt. Jaime Engdahl, US Navy UCAS program manager for the Naval Air Systems Command, said: ‘Today's catapult launch of the X-47B is a momentous feat for naval aviation. It proves that the navy's goal of operating unmanned systems safely and effectively from aircraft carriers is well on its way to becoming a reality.’
Northrop Grumman is working with the US Navy as prime contractor on the UCAS Carrier Demonstration (UCAS-D) programme to design, produce and flight test two X-47B air vehicles. Air Vehicle 2 completed the catapult shot.
The UCAS-D has already undergone a number of preparatory demonstrations thus far in the programme. Deck-handling capabilities were tested in December 2012 onboard USS Harry S Truman (CVN-75); and a series of shore-based catapult shots were carried out between November 2012 and March 2013 at Naval Air Station Patuxent River.
Carl Johnson, vice president and US Navy UCAS program manager for Northrop Grumman, added: ‘Catapulting the unmanned X-47B off the USS George HW Bush is an event as historic as the navy's first catapult of a manned aircraft, which occurred in November 1915 from the armoured cruiser USS North Carolina (ACR-12). We are delighted to help launch this new era of naval capability.’
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