First X-47B UCAS Catapult Launch Makes Naval Aviation History


Story Number: NNS121129-11Release Date: 11/29/2012 5:29:00 PM
A  A  A   Email this story to a friend   Print this story
From Naval Air Systems Command Public Affairs

NAVAL AIR SYSTEMS COMMAND, PATUXENT RIVER, Md. (NNS) -- 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.

See video of the launch here: http://youtu.be/HTiRY2ieDN0

"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."

STORY COMMENTS1 COMMENT
12/11/2012 5:35:00 AM
I think it's great. The more lives that can be saved in any war, the better. Wars are unfortunately part of being human, but who's to say soldiers need to die to achieve victory. Great to see science in progress. Well done.

Comment submission for this story is now closed.
 
RELATED PHOTOS
Launch crew prepares a X-47B Unmanned Combat Air System (UCAS) demonstrator for its first land-based catapult launch.
121129-N-JQ696-082 PATUXENT RIVER, Md. (Nov. 29, 2012) Launch crew prepares a X-47B Unmanned Combat Air System (UCAS) demonstrator for its first land-based catapult launch. The Navy's first-ever steam catapult launch of the pilotless X-47B ensures the vehicle can structurally handle the rigors of the aircraft-carrier environment. (U.S. Navy photo courtesy of Northrop Grumman by Kelly Schindler/Released)
November 29, 2012
RELATED CONTENT
Navy Social Media
Sign up for email updates To sign up for updates or to access your subscriber preferences, please click on the envelope icon in the page header above or click here.