Naval Air Station Patuxent River conducted the navy’s first flight of the X-47B Unmanned Combat Air System (UCAS) demonstrator on Sunday, making history and sounding the horns for a coming era of pilotless combat aircraft.
The flight was set for 35 minutes. the Aircraft took off at 11 a.m. and flew at 7,500 feet and 180 knots over the Chesapeake Bay before landing back at the station.
“This milestone event is the first of many flights at Pax River to demonstrate X-47B’s compatibility with aircraft carrier flight procedures and launch/recovery equipment,” said Matt Funk, UCAS lead test engineer. “The unique airspace and ship equipment at Pax River allow us to conduct the testing here before we land aboard the aircraft carrier next year.”
The X-47B had been undergoing tests at Edwards Air Force Base before arriving in Maryland in June for the next phase of testing. The Navy will assess the unmanned vehicle’s ability to perform aboard aircraft carriers. One of the testing facilities at Pax River is a simulated aircraft carrier environment, which will allow team members to ensure the aircraft is ready to operate in testing at sea. Land-based testing will establish X-47B has the ability to conduct precision approaches and to perform arrested landings and catapult launches prior to actual aircraft carrier operations, according to the Navy.
“The X-47B’s flight today is another important step closer to the Navy’s vision of operating tailless, autonomous, unmanned systems from aircraft carriers,” said Capt. Jaime Engdahl, Navy UCAS program manager.
The X-47 was created and funded by Northrop Grumman.