X-47B: The Future Is Here

Yesterday was a big day for Naval Aviation, as the Navy hoisted the first X-47B Unmanned Combat Air System (UCAS) demonstrator on board the aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75). Later this month the Navy is preparing for another first when a team from the Navy Unmanned Combat Air System program office (PMA-268) gets set to conduct tests and demonstrations with the X-47B while underway with the ship.

Sailors assist with the onload of the X-47B Unmanned Combat Air System (UCAS) demonstrator aboard the aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75). The air vehicle arrived by barge from Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Md. Truman is the first aircraft carrier to host test operations for an unmanned aircraft. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Lorenzo J. Burleson/Released)

 

According to the Northrop Grumman X-47B UCAS Fact Sheet - The X-47B is a computer-controlled unmanned aircraft system that takes off, flies a preprogrammed mission, then returns to base in response to mouse clicks from its mission operator. The mission operator monitors the X-47B air vehicle’s operation, but does not actively “fly” it via remote control as is the case for other unmanned systems currently in operation.

The UCAS program is intended to reduce risks associated with developing future unmanned, carriercompatible systems, and hopes to  demonstrate two “firsts” for unmanned jet-powered aviation:

  • Autonomous carrier operations including launch, recovery and operations in the carrier control area (out to 50 nautical miles); and
  • Autonomous aerial refueling, including the Air Force’s “boom and receptacle” approach and the Navy’s “probe and drogue” method.

X-47B Specifications

Wingspan……………………………………………………………………. 62.1 ft
Length…………………………………………………………………………38.2 ft
Altitude ………………………………………………………………. >40,000 ft
Range ……………………………………………………………………>2,100 nm
Top Speed……………………………………………………. High Subsonic
Powerplant…………………..Pratt & Whitney F100-PW-220U

X-47B System Provisions

Autonomous Aerial Refueling
• Probe and Drogue (USN)
• Boom and Receptacle (USAF)
Twin Internal Weapons Bay ……………………………….4,500 lbs

 

Check out what everyone else is saying about the X-47B:

Business Insider
Danger Room
Gizmodo