X-47B Unmanned Combat Air System Completes First At-Sea Tests
(Source: U.S Navy; issued December 18, 2012)
USS HARRY S. TRUMAN, At Sea --- The X-47B Unmanned Combat Air System (UCAS) demonstrator completed its first at-sea test phase aboard the nuclear powered aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75) Dec. 18.

The first aircraft of its kind aboard a Naval vessel, the X-47B was put through myriad trials designed to assess the viability of an unmanned system's operation aboard a carrier.

Among the multitude of tests, the X-47B was towed using carrier-based tractors, taxied on the flight deck via its arm-mounted control display unit (CDU), and had its digital engine controls tested within environments pervaded by electromagnetic fields.

"The system has performed outstandingly," said Don Blottenberger, program manager for the N-UCAS Program Office (PMA-268). "We've learned a lot about the environment that we're in and how compatible the aircraft is with a carrier's flight deck, hangar bays and communication systems."

"We validated our capabilities on an aircraft carrier," said Mike Mackey, Northrop Grumman's program director. "We gained a lot of knowledge that we could never have gotten anywhere else except on a carrier. It was perfect for the team. We demonstrated the program's maturity and our team's ability to interact with Sailors and the ship, which was one of the most important things for us to do."

Mackey said data collected from the aircraft's performance throughout its two-week test period aboard Truman will contribute to future unmanned aviation programs.

Although the X-47B, as a demonstration aircraft, will never be put into production, Blottenberger said Sailors may one day see similar aircraft aboard ships.

"There are a lot of people aboard Truman that will take this experience with them," said Blottenberger. "I think that all of this interest will help different programs both manned and unmanned. Hopefully, its impact will benefit future technologies."

Sailors aboard Truman were offered working experience with the X-47B as crew members directed the aircraft on the flight deck and handled it in the hangar bays.

Lt. Cmdr. Larry Tarver, Truman's aircraft handling officer, said his experience with UCAS-D during its testing was very interesting.

"I believe our Sailors integrated with the system very easily," said Tarver. "Getting Sailors to help out and participate was very easy as everyone was curious and excited to work with it. Apart from those minor differences, the aircraft moved much like any other carrier-based aircraft while taxiing under its own power."

Tarver said he believes aircraft like the X-47B will easily fit into a carrier's environment in the future.

"Moving the UCAS-D around with a spotting dolly was very similar to how we move other aircraft," said Aviation Boatswain's Mate (Handling) 3rd Class Daniel Colon, a supervisor in air department's V-3 division aboard Truman. "Being the only carrier to have experience with this system so far, I am proud to be among the first Sailors to test this aircraft. I know my whole team feels the same way."

Blottenberger attributed much of UCAS-D's success to the Truman crew's open communication and support.

"Approximately 40 percent of our test team onboard had never been on a Navy ship before," said Blottenberger. "I think it was eye-opening for the team to see the complexities involved in running and organizing a ship effectively. The Truman has been outstanding. There are countless examples of support from a list of Sailors too long to count from almost every department on board. I could not imagine a better experience for the test team."

Capt. S. Robert Roth, Truman's commanding officer, said Sailors benefitted equally from N-UCAS's embark.

"There was obvious curiosity about the aircraft and tremendous enthusiasm from the entire crew to be part of the revolutionary testing," said Roth after an event honoring the partnership built between Team Truman and N-UCAS. "These tests were the perfect match of a crew that knows the environment and the operation of aircraft at sea and a team with impressive new technologies. Our crew has taken great pride in being part of Naval aviation history."

Mackey, a retired Marine with more than 20 years of experience, said he loved being back aboard a Naval vessel to work with Sailors.

"Every minute of the underway was an opportunity to see how far the Navy has grown," said Mackey. "It's awesome to see the caliber of today's warriors. It's been a great experience for me aboard Truman."

With X-47B's deck testing completed, Blottenberger said the aircraft will return to Naval Air Station (NAS) Patuxent River for further testing and is scheduled to embark another carrier in mid-2013.

"I'm a believer that this is only the beginning," said Blottenberger. "We're taking UCAS-D into next year with what we learned aboard Truman. We are planning to get it back on a carrier to complete catapult launches, arrested landings and aerial refueling tests. There is a lot ahead for our program and a lot of hard work behind us. I look at Truman as the beginning of future unmanned integration with the fleet." (ends)




Northrop Grumman, U.S. Navy Complete At-Sea Deck Handling Trials of X-47B Unmanned Demonstrator
(Source: Northrop Grumman Corp.; issued December 19, 2012)
NAS PATUXENT RIVER, Md. --- Northrop Grumman Corporation and the U.S. Navy have successfully completed a series of deck handling trials of the X-47B Unmanned Combat Air System (UCAS) demonstrator aircraft aboard the aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman (CVN-75).

The exercises, conducted from Nov. 27 to Dec. 17, demonstrated the ability to maneuver the tailless, strike-fighter-sized aircraft quickly and precisely on the flight deck using a wireless handheld controller. They are the latest in a series of test activities leading up to the first carrier landings of the X-47B planned for 2013.

"The X-47B deck trials proved convincingly that the design and operation of the aircraft are fully compatible with the rhythm and operational requirements of the carrier flight deck," said Mike Mackey, UCAS-D program director for Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems. "They provided a major boost to the team's confidence as we move steadily toward our first carrier landings next year."

Northrop Grumman is the Navy's prime contractor for the UCAS-Carrier Demonstration (UCAS-D) program. The company designed and produced two X-47B aircraft for the program. One aircraft was on the ship; the other remains at Naval Air Station Patuxent River where it is undergoing additional shore-based carrier suitability testing.

The deck trials were conducted both while the USS Harry S. Truman was in port at Naval Station Norfolk, and while the ship was under way off the coast of Virginia.

Mackey said the testing included taxiing the X-47B on the flight deck, maneuvering the aircraft up to the ship's catapults using the Northrop Grumman-designed Control Display Unit; taxiing the aircraft over the ship's arresting cables and conducting fueling operations. The team also moved the aircraft up and down the ship's elevators between the flight deck and the hangar bay.

"We proved that the X-47B air system is mature and can perform flawlessly in the most hostile electromagnetic environment on earth, a Nimitz class Navy aircraft carrier," added Mackey.

In 2013, the UCAS-D program plans to begin conducting shore-based arrested landings of the X-47B at Patuxent River. Carrier trials, which will include both landings and catapult launches, are planned for later in the spring.

Northrop Grumman's UCAS-D industry team includes Pratt & Whitney, Lockheed Martin, GKN Aerospace, Eaton, General Electric, UTC Aerospace Systems, Dell, Honeywell, Moog, Wind River, Parker Aerospace and Rockwell Collins.


Northrop Grumman is a leading global security company providing innovative systems, products and solutions in unmanned systems, cybersecurity, C4ISR, and logistics and modernization to government and commercial customers worldwide. (ends)
X-47B Stealth Drone Targets New Frontiers
(Source: BBC News; published Dec. 19, 2012)
As a fighter plane prepares to take off from a naval carrier at sea, the pilot and deck crew go through a tightly choreographed series of hand signals to tell each other they are ready to launch. It ends with a final “salute” from the pilot to indicate that the aircraft is ready to be catapulted off the deck.

But when the X-47B, the US Navy’s newest prototype combat aircraft, prepares for its first carrier launch early next year, there will be no salute. That’s because there will also be no pilot. Instead, the X-47B will blink its wingtip navigation lights, a robotic nod to the human salute (and mimicking what the Navy does for night launches), before the catapult officer presses the launch button, and the robotic aircraft is flung off the front of the ship

After years of development, and recent land-based tests, the highly anticipated carrier flight for this stealthy, tailless, unmanned drone is imminent. “It should be in early in 2013,” says Carl Johnson, vice president and program manager at defence firm Northrop Grumman, which builds the X-47B. “We have to coordinate ship schedules as well as all the other airspace issues.”

The X-47B is a strike fighter-sized prototype drone developed as part of the United States Navy's UCAS-D (Unmanned Combat Air System Demonstration) programme, which aims to develop technologies necessary to field a combat drone on carriers. As a result, it has folding wings and is built for the rigors of sea life, including salt water, deck handling and of course take-off and landing from an aircraft carrier.

Although the X-47B is a prototype, the Navy hopes to actually field operational unmanned combat aircraft on carriers by the end of the decade. (end of excerpt)


Click here for the full story, on the BBC News website.

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