NAVAIR

First X-47B UCAS catapult launch makes naval aviation history

Launching crew prepares the X-47B Unmanned Combat Air System (UCAS) for its first land-based catapult launch Nov. 29 from Patuxent River, Md. (U.S. Navy photo)

Launching crew prepares the X-47B Unmanned Combat Air System (UCAS) for its first land-based catapult launch Nov. 29 from Patuxent River, Md. (U.S. Navy photo)

Nov 29, 2012

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The X-47B prepares for its inaugural catapult shot Nov. 29 at Patuxent River, Md. The Navy’s first-ever steam catapult launch of the pilotless X-47B ensures the vehicle can structurally handle the rigors of the unique and stringent aircraft carrier environment.(Photo courtesy of Northrop Grumman)

The X-47B prepares for its inaugural catapult shot Nov. 29 at Patuxent River, Md. The Navy’s first-ever steam catapult launch of the pilotless X-47B e ...

NAVAL AIR SYSTEMS COMMAND, PATUXENT RIVER, Md. – The X-47B Unmanned Combat Air System (UCAS) demonstrator successfully completed its inaugural land-based catapult launch here Nov. 29, marking the start of a new era for naval aviation.

"Carrier-based unmanned aircraft will change the concept of operations for the carrier-controlled airspace," said Rear Adm. Mat Winter, the program executive officer for Unmanned Aviation and Strike Weapons. "The N-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."

The Navy’s first-ever steam catapult launch of the pilotless X-47B ensures the vehicle can structurally handle the rigors of the unique and stringent aircraft carrier environment.

"The X-47B shore-based catapult launch we witnessed here today will leave a mark in history," said Vice Adm. David Dunaway, NAVAIR commander. "We are working toward the future integration of unmanned aircraft on the carrier deck, something we didn't envision 60 years ago when the steam catapult was first built here."

Since the birth of naval aviation, engineers have relied on experienced test pilots to help evaluate aircraft flying qualities and structural suitability. Today, the Navy UCAS integrated test team relied solely on data from a pre-programmed automated X-47B aircraft to achieve these data points.

“This test, in addition to the extensive modeling and simulation done prior to today, gives us great confidence in the X-47B’s ability to operate on the flight deck,” said Capt. Jaime Engdahl, the Navy UCAS program manager.

The combined Navy and Northrop Grumman team will continue ground-based catapult verification and final flight software validation at Pax River before embarking on USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75) later this month for its initial sea trials.

The Navy will use the X-47B to demonstrate the first carrier-based launches and recoveries by an autonomous, unmanned aircraft in 2013.

“We are breaking new ground with the development of a carrier-based system that enables launch and recovery support of an unmanned platform off a carrier flight deck,” Engdahl said. “Every test we are conducting at Pax River and at sea is a historic milestone for naval aviation.”

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5 Comments, Please review our Feedback Guidelines.


iran said

so what happens if iran gets one of these ?


December 8, 2012 at 1:50:37 AM EST

joe godlewski said

joe godlewski fantastic


November 30, 2012 at 6:41:21 PM EST

Anonymous said

Skynet!


November 30, 2012 at 9:30:42 AM EST

Anonymous said

Congratulations to all of you who worked so hard to achieve this memorable event. NAVAIR pushes the cutting edge again! Best wishes aboard the carrier.


November 30, 2012 at 12:04:12 AM EST

Kyle Ibbotson said

Congrats to Northrop Grumman and US Navy!!!


November 29, 2012 at 10:26:35 PM EST


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