An X-47B Unmanned Combat Air System (UCAS) jet was launched from a catapult for the first time Nov. 29. One of two aircraft in the U.S. Navy’s inventory took to the air from a land-based steam catapult at the flight test center at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Maryland. The launch was an important test of the aircraft’s ability to withstand the stresses of a catapult launch.
Earlier, the other X-47B was barged down the Chesapeake Bay and loaded on Nov. 26 aboard the aircraft carrier USS HARRY S. TRUMAN (CVN 75) at Norfolk naval base, Virginia, for the first handling trials of the unmanned jet aboard ship.
After further tests at Pax River to validate the system’s software and catapult suitability, the Navy and Northrop Grumman engineering team will board the TRUMAN for a planned two weeks of shipboard trials, primarily aimed at learning how to move the pilotless plane about the carrier deck. Navy officials do not plan to fly the X-47B from the ship during this trial period, although there is an outside chance that should all go well, an attempt might be made.
Edited warmup and takeoff video with groovy music soundtrack
In a press release from Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR), Rear Adm. Mat Winter, the program executive officer for Unmanned Aviation and Strike Weapons, said that “carrier-based unmanned aircraft will change the concept of operations for the carrier-controlled airspace. The Navy-UCAS program’s goal is to demonstrate integration of an unmanned aircraft into a carrier environment and reduce technical risk associated with developing potential future unmanned, carrier-compatible systems.”
NAVAIR’s commander was even more emphatic.
“The X-47B shore-based catapult launch we witnessed here today will leave a mark in history,” said Vice Adm. David Dunaway.