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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.

November 15, 2013 I Written By

I'm Dave and I am a proud Avgeek. It goes way beyond liking airplanes. It is a passion that cannot be subdued.

A Video History of the X-47B UCAS-D Naval Unmanned Aircraft System

One of my biggest obsessions recently has been UAV’s, and the X-47B in particular.  As incredible as I find UAVs it is even more incredible to me that the Navy has pursued an aircraft like this.  Naval aviation just carries so many unique attributes that I never thought they would even be interested in this technology.

After two and a half years of development the Navy recently achieved arguably the biggest milestone in making the UCAS-D a reality.  On July 10 they successfully performed an arrested landing on an aircraft carrier with the X-47B on board the USS George H.W. Bush.  When I saw the video, which can be found below, the only thought I had was, WOW!

Maybe it is just the nature of aviation, but it seems like they continue to make advances where other industries crawl along at a snail’s pace.  This is the type of technology that really sparks innovation in the world.  Like many technologies we may not fully appreciate its impact until far into the future, but there is no doubt it will have a tremendous impact.

The Navy has a great timeline of events on their website describing the development process, and Northrop Grumman, the lead developer, gave a nice description of the first arrested landing in their press release.  More information about previous milestones can be found here, here, and here.

But, if all you want is some high quality video footage, that can be found below.

July 24, 2013 I Written By

I'm Dave and I am a proud Avgeek. It goes way beyond liking airplanes. It is a passion that cannot be subdued.