X-47B Continues Flight Tests Aboard USS Theodore Roosevelt

X-47B performs flight tests aboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt.

X-47B performs flight tests aboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt.

I was a little bit surprised a few months back when the Navy stopped flying the X-47B UCAS-D with plans to send it to the Smithsonian.  I didn’t understand why you would send perfectly capable aircraft to pasture when there is still so much more they could do.

Apparently, the Navy came to the same realization as the two aircraft that have been part of testing returned to service aboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt on Nov. 10.  The aircraft will continue testing in the carrier environment to ensure interoperability with the complex operations that occur there.

How quickly the testing came to an end initially made it feel like the whole thing was just to generate proof of concept rather than actual long-term solutions.  However, the release that the Navy put out regarding these test flights makes it feel much more real.

Earlier testing included flight deck operations aboard the USS Harry Truman and catapult take-offs and landings aboard the USS George H. W. Bush.  While those may have been some of the more challenging aspects, it is telling that the Navy is spending more time working on how these aircraft will integrate with regular operations rather than just individual test events.

Not having ever observed actual flight deck operations, unfortunately, I am curious as to what specific testing is taking place.  What types of integration will be necessary to ensure functionality?  Does the lack of a pilot on-board make it more difficult, or maybe even easier?  It will be fun to see how the program develops over the years.