Home / Inside the Navy / Aviation / X-47B UCAS Launches the Next Era of Naval Aviation
An X-47B Unmanned Combat Air System (UCAS) demonstrator sits on an aircraft elevator of the aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77) in Norfolk, Va.,, May 6. George H.W. Bush is scheduled to be the first aircraft carrier to catapult-launch an unmanned aircraft from its flight deck. George H.W. Bush is preparing to conduct training operations in the Atlantic Ocean. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Tony D. Curtis/Released)
An X-47B Unmanned Combat Air System (UCAS) demonstrator sits on an aircraft elevator of the aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77) in Norfolk, Va.,, May 6. George H.W. Bush is scheduled to be the first aircraft carrier to catapult-launch an unmanned aircraft from its flight deck. George H.W. Bush is preparing to conduct training operations in the Atlantic Ocean. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Tony D. Curtis/Released)

X-47B UCAS Launches the Next Era of Naval Aviation

Updated May 14 at 1:41 p.m.: The X-47B Unmanned Combat Air System demonstrator completed its first ever carrier-based catapult launch from USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77) off the coast of Virginia, May 14.


By Rear Adm. Mat Winter
Program Executive Officer for Unmanned Aviation and Strike Weapons

Naval aviation will change forever Tuesday as we witness the first-ever launch of an unmanned aircraft from a modern aircraft carrier.

This launch of the X-47B Unmanned Combat Air System demonstrator will mark an inflection point in history on how we will integrate manned and unmanned aircraft on carrier flight decks in the future.

The X-47B is pictured after completed a yearlong test phase at Edwards Air Force Base and before testing at Patuxent River, Md., in 2012.
The X-47B is pictured after completed a yearlong test phase at Edwards Air Force Base and before testing at Patuxent River, Md., in 2012.

 

These are exciting times for the Navy as we are truly doing something that has never been done before – something I never imagined could be done during my 29-year naval career.

This historic event challenges the paradigm of manned carrier landings that were first conducted more than 90 years ago. In that challenge though, comes a respect and admiration for all those naval aviators – past and present – that have ensured the value of the Navy aircraft carrier/carrier air wing team.

The addition of unmanned aviation to this formidable, power projection team provides a complementary capability, which will ensure carrier naval aviation remains viable and relevant for decades to come. It also shows our collective readiness within naval aviation to embrace these future opportunities to move forward with unmanned carrier aviation. This is a big deal!

An X-47B Unmanned Combat Air System demonstrator is loaded onto the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77) in Norfolk, Va., May 6. George H.W. Bush is scheduled to be the first aircraft carrier to catapult-launch an unmanned aircraft from its flight deck. George H.W. Bush is preparing to conduct training operations in the Atlantic Ocean. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Tony D. Curtis/Released)
An X-47B Unmanned Combat Air System demonstrator is loaded onto the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77) in Norfolk, Va., May 6. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Tony D. Curtis/Released)

Last week, Sailors aboard USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77) observed the hoist aboard of the X-47B Unmanned Combat Air System demonstrator in preparation for the aircraft’s initial catapult launch.

Shortly after CVN 77 gets underway, our dedicated Navy and Northrop Grumman test team will launch the X-47B from the flight deck. Controlled by a mission operator aboard the ship, the X-47B will execute several carrier approaches demonstrating its ability to operate seamlessly within the carrier environment before it flies over the Eastern Shore and lands back at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Md., where two demonstration aircraft have resided for the past year.

Leading up to this at-sea period, the UCAS program successfully completed carrier deck operations aboard USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75) in December 2012 and conducted a shore-based tests at Pax River, including the first steam catapult launch of the pilotless X-47B.

While the X-47B itself is not intended for operational use, the UCAS program is developing a concept of operations and demonstrating technologies for follow-on unmanned, carrier-based aircraft. The intent of the demonstration program is to assess the feasibility of X-47B’s seamless integration into the carrier systems and environment.

An informational graphic depicting the UCAS X47B. (U.S. Navy graphic by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Arif Patani/Released)
An informational graphic depicting the UCAS X47B. (U.S. Navy graphic by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Arif Patani/Released)

 

Over the coming years, we will heavily leverage the technology maturation, networking advances and precision navigation algorithms developed from the X-47B demonstration program to pursue the introduction of the first operational carrier-based unmanned aircraft. This future system will provide a 24/7, carrier-based intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance and targeting capability, which will operate together with manned aviation assets allowing the opportunity to shape a more efficient carrier air wing.

As we sit here ready to begin a new chapter of naval aviation, I am humbled and privileged to be part of this event, which our future family, friends, Sailors and Marines will learn about in their history lessons 50+ years from now. Congratulations to the military, government civilian and industry teams from UCAS, PEO(U&W), Naval Air Systems Command and USS George H.W. Bush for getting us to this milestone and truly making history.

Read past Navy Live blogs about the Unmanned Combat Air System

What do you think about the integration of unmanned aircraft into naval aviation? Let us know by commenting below.

Comments

comments

About Jason Kelly

Twitter: @JasonKellyPAO

Check Also

SEA OF JAPAN: An F/A-18C Hornet assigned to the “Blue Blasters” of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 34 takes off from the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70). (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Sean M. Castellano/Released)

Your Navy Operating Forward – Polaris Point, Philippine Sea, Mediterranean Sea

Right now your Navy is 100 percent on watch around the globe helping to preserve …

16 comments

  1. I think that the real achievement will be the first and subsequent autonomous landing on a carrier at sea

  2. GOD BLEES AMERICA !!!!

  3. It is awesome that the U.S. Navy is entering into a new era and moving forward into unmanned aircraft. Go Navy!

  4. In this world, I understand the need for continuing technological development in today’s military which would further maximize efficiency and lower the potential for casualties. Having said that, in my opinion, the UCAS is a waste of money. Sure the potential of something like this is nearly unlimited, but not only taking the pilot out of the cockpit, but also completely removing it is not something that should be happening. Flying is not just about your instruments, it’s about feeling and knowing what the aircraft can and cannot do. The knowledge of what an aircraft can do and feeling how the aircraft reacts to certain actions cannot be felt, taught or experienced from a command center hundreds of miles away sitting infront of a monitor with a joystick and keyboard

  5. Raul Alforque Resma

    Wow, amazing! USN go go go…

  6. EDWARD W. BYERS

    GOOD LUCK TO ALL INVOLVED IN THE UNMANNED COMBAT AIR SYSTEM I AM 100% WITH YOU.

  7. Juvenal Osegueralopez

    Jaw just hit the floor, i wounder when skynet comes online!

  8. AnneMarie Esswein

    Awesome technology, increased security and surveillance, plus no one at the front line with the potential loss of life. This is FANTASTIC TECHNOLOGY! Thank you for all the ha science hasbehind to rd work and producing the latest and greatest technological products in the world.
    GO NAVY!

  9. Fortunately if this works out. USN has great options with the UCAS-N and Super Hornet Block II. F-35C? Not so much.

  10. Thorsten Hindermann

    A true milestone! Congrats to all the Teams involed in this program.

  11. WOW — how great can it get?

  12. Sweet. I was stationed at Pax River. Really enjoyed it.

  13. Wow! Pretty lavish!

  14. That’s America, baby!!

  15. WOW! What AWESOME Technology!

  16. Patricia Pritchard

    Hi, I’m not sure if this is even going to reach you. This has nothing to do with the post that you have been writing, so sincere apologies. I live in England and was visiting family in New Hampshire in the USA earlier this month. We went to a Consignment store and I came across this most wonderful book, full of photos and certificates – a tribute from one brother to another – to a Brandon Zadel, who was going to join the Navy. Searching the internet for this name brought me here. Chances are you are not the Brandon Zadel in this wonderful honour. Tears pricked my eyes as I read the text and especially the final message in the book. Just to let you know that, if you are him, then your brother really loved you.

Leave a Reply