Published on June 21st, 2012 | by admin


The X-47 Unmanned Aircraft Successfully Completes Initial Flight Testing

The Northrop Grumman X-47B refers to an American demonstration of Unmanned Combat Air Vehicle (UCAV) that was first tested in 2011. X-47 program originally began as a section of DARPA’s J-UCAS project and is currently a section of US Navy Unmanned Combat Air System Demonstration (UCAS-D) program. The mission of the project is to help in creation of unmanned carrier-based aircraft. This plane is the predecessor of Boeing X-45 only that the program for making the company was funded by the development of the plane was funded b the development company.

In the test that was carried recently, Northrop Grumman’s X-47 B successfully passed the flight tests. This placed at better position to become the first tailless, carrier-based, fighter-sized and unmanned aircraft in United States Navy arsenal. The testing of the plane was done at Edwards Air Force Base (EAFB), CA.

The test phase for airworthiness that featured first flight on 4th February, 2011 involved flying of a couple of UCAS (Unmanned Combat Air System) samples that did 23 flights; whereby, the planes went above 15,000 ft altitude. The aircraft was also able to accomplish majority of the maneuvers required in carrier operations. These features included initial flight in cruise mode, expanding and retraction of tail hook, accomplishing the aviation-first autonomous “touch and go landing’’ as well as landings featuring high sink rate and heavy-duty configuration.

According to Northrop Grumman, the pane proved to have efficient performance when the aircraft is at different altitudes, speeds and weight attributed with Navy’s Demonstration (UCAS-D) project.
“The X-47 B flight test plan held at Edward’s Airport will forever be remembered as successful collaboration between Northrop Grumman, Navy and Flight Test Center for US Air Force,’’ remarked Carl Johnson, the VP and Enterprise program manager for Navy UCAS at Northrop Grummans Aerospace branch. “X-47B plane test program held at Edward’s proved that the durability, performance and maturity of this new unmanned system satisfy and exceed the basic standard.’’

After the successful completion of testing airworthiness at EAFB on 15th May, another X-47B has been shipped across the country to the Navy Air Station at Patuxent River in Maryland. This unit joined another X-47B that had been shipped to the same station in December 2011. The initial plane shipped to the base is currently being tested for electromagnetic interference meant to ascertain that it’s compatible with electromagnetic signal field used by aircraft carriers.

The Northrop Grumman is on its final stages of designing the software to be used for carrier suitability testing of aircraft that will start in the coming months. This will incorporate arrested landings, wireless remote deck handling of the aircraft and catapult launches.

The tests that are planned to be held in 2013 will feature demonstration of recovery, launch, bolter and the waver-off performance. The demonstrations for autonomous air refueling are scheduled to take placed in 2014.

The main design considerations that naval UCAV followed was deck handling meant for launch and recovery, incorporation of command and control systems and the operation of aircraft carrier’s high-electromagnetic-interference environment. The Navy also expressed interest in procuring UCAVs for penetrating secluded airspace for identifying targets that re to be attacked as well as accomplishing other reconnaissance missions.

Although the X-47 B is loaded with no weapons, it comes with a complete weapons bay. Nonetheless, the size and weight of the demonstration aircraft is similar to that of the expected original plane in order to provide precise results.

The recent success in the development of the plane has created optimistic results that the technology of unmanned planes is almost landing in the market. Currently, all the tests of the plane have all proven successful.

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