X-47B makes first flight from Pax River
On 30 July Northrop Grumman announced that the X-47B Unmanned Combat Air System (UCAS) demonstrator had successfully completed its first flight from Naval Air Station Patuxent (River.
The 36-minute flight, the first for the tailless, strike-fighter-sized aircraft since it was transported to the US Navy base in June from Edwards Air Force Base, California, was successfully completed on 29 July 29 at 11:36 a.m. According to NG, it marks the first time a tactical unmanned aircraft has been fully integrated into the air traffic patterns and the command and control structure of the Patuxent River flight test complex.
‘This flight of the X-47B is the first time an autonomous, carrier-capable unmanned system has flown at Pax River,’ said Carl Johnson, vice president and Navy UCAS programme manager for Northrop Grumman. ‘It's also a major milestone for the program as the Navy/Northrop Grumman team prepares the aircraft to enter carrier suitability testing this fall, the last major phase of testing before we begin carrier trials in 2013.’
During the flight, which comprised two precision racetrack patterns over the Chesapeake Bay, the aircraft reached a maximum altitude of 7,500 ft and a maximum air speed of 180 kts.
‘This flight makes two critical points for the NG/Navy Integrated Test Team,’ said Daryl Martis, NG's X-47B test director. ‘It validates the performance of the aircraft demonstrated during its initial flight testing at Edwards, and it proves that we've successfully implemented the command and control structure required to operate the X-47B safely from Pax River.’
During the flight, the aircraft communicated with a shore-based version of the aircraft carrier systems that will help guide the X-47B to precision landings on the carrier deck, which are located in the Navy UCAS Aviation/Ship Integration Facility at Pax River.
In 2013, the UCAS-D programme plans to demonstrate the ability of the X-47B to safely operate from a USN aircraft carrier, including launch, recovery, and air traffic control operations. Those trials will be followed by a demonstration of autonomous aerial refuelling in 2014. The programme also plans to mature technologies required for potential future Navy unmanned air system programs.
NG is the USN's prime contractor for the Navy's UCAS-D programme. The company designed and built two X-47B demonstrator aircraft for the programme, which is managed by Naval Air Systems Command.
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