X-47B UCAS-D makes first arrested landing
Northrop Grumman has announced that the X-47B Unmanned Combat Air System (UCAS) demonstrator under development with the US Navy has conducted its first fly-in arrested landing on 4 May. The landing was conducted at the navy’s shore-based catapult and arresting gear complex at the Naval Air Station Patuxent River.
An arrested landing uses a heavy cable extended across the landing area that is caught by the incoming aircraft’s landing hook. The tension in the wire brings the aircraft to a rapid and controlled stop.
During the test the X-47B used a navigation approach that closely mimics the technique it will use to land on an aircraft carrier underway at sea.
Capt. Jaime Engdahl, the navy's UCAS program manager, said: ‘This precision, shore-based trap by the X-47B puts the UCAS Carrier Demonstration [UCAS-D] programme on final approach for a rendezvous with naval aviation history. It moves us a critical step closer to proving that unmanned systems can be integrated seamlessly into navy carrier operations.’
Carl Johnson, vice president and Navy UCAS program manager for Northrop Grumman, added: ‘The X-47B air vehicle performs exactly as predicted by the modelling, simulation and surrogate testing we did early in the UCAS-D programme. It takes off, flies and lands within a few feet of its predicted path.’
So far the aircraft’s shore-based carrier suitability testing has included precision approaches, touch-and-go landings, and precision landings. This landing – the first arrested landing by a navy unmanned aircraft - marks the beginning of the final phase of testing prior to carrier-based trials planned for later this month.
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