Unmanned X-47B Completes First Carrier-Based Arrested Landing

Below is a photo for the history books. It shows a tailless, unmanned autonomous aircraft landing on an aircraft carrier. It’s a first for the Navy.

An X-47B Unmanned Combat Air System (UCAS) demonstrator completes an arrested landing on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77), July 10. The landing marks the first time any unmanned aircraft has completed an arrested landing at sea. George H.W. Bush is conducting training operations in the Atlantic Ocean. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Lorelei R. Vander Griend/Released)

 Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus announced Wednesday’s milestone on Twitter.

The X-47B Unmanned Combat Air System demonstrator completed the arrested landing on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77) off the coast of Virginia.

The unmanned aircraft caught the 3 wire with its tailhook. In less than 350 feet, it went from approximately 145 knots to stop.

Shortly after the initial landing, the aircraft was launched off the ship using the carrier’s catapult. The X-47B then executed one more arrested landing.

The demonstration was the final part of three at-sea test periods for the X-47B during the last eight months.

The Navy UCAS program successfully completed carrier deck operations aboard USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75) in December 2012 and aboard Bush in May.

The X-47B Unmanned Combat Air System demonstrator taxies on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75), Dec. 9, 2012. Harry S. Truman was the first aircraft carrier to host test operations for an unmanned aircraft. (U.S. Navy photo courtesy of Northrop Grumman Corp. by Alan Radecki/Released)

The X-47B Unmanned Combat Air System demonstrator taxies on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75), Dec. 9, 2012. Harry S. Truman was the first aircraft carrier to host test operations for an unmanned aircraft. (U.S. Navy photo courtesy of Northrop Grumman Corp. by Alan Radecki/Released)

During the May underway period, the X-47B completed its first-ever catapult launch.

Since May, the X-47B test team conducted a number of shore-based arrestments at Naval Air Station Patuxent, Md., for the demonstration aboard the ship.

So what’s next?

While the X-47B itself is not intended for operational use, the UCAS program has developed the concept of operations and demonstrated the technology for follow-on unmanned carrier based aircraft. The program demonstrated the ability to seamlessly integrate unmanned systems into the carrier environment with only small incremental changes to the existing equipment and concept of operations.

Capt. Jaime Engdahl, program manager, Navy Unmanned Combat Air System, wrote in a Navy Live blog released yesterday.

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 X-47B. (U.S. Navy graphic by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Arif Patani/Released)

 

What do you think about today’s milestone? What do you think is next for the future of naval aviation? Let us know by commenting below.