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Northrop Grumman’s X-47B Unmanned Combat Air System successfully landed on a U.S. Navy aircraft carrier Wednesday.
The landing followed a 35-minute flight from a naval air station in Maryland.
The arrested landing, conducted by a mission operator aboard the USS George H.W. Bush, was the first for the fighter-sized drone and opens the door for carrier deployment of unmanned combat vehicles.
“Today’s historic carrier landing and our operations aboard USS George H.W. Bush show, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that tailless unmanned aircraft can integrate seamlessly and operate safely from an aircraft carrier at sea,” Capt. Jaime Engdahl, Navy UCAS program manager, said Wednesday.
“Beyond X-47B, this moment in history was made possible by an extremely disciplined and dedicated government-industry team that took a brand new unmanned combat air system from initial concept to highly successful demonstration in one of the most demanding operating environments in the world.”
Prior to snagging a deck wire with its tailhook and being brought to a stop within less than 350 feet, the X-47B was traveling at a speed of 145 knots.
“Although it looks like it could be an easy maneuver, today’s successful arrested landings points back to a rigorous test plan focused on software development and system maturity to prove today that an autonomous unmanned system such as the X-47B can safely, seamlessly and predictably integrate into Navy carrier operations,” said Carl Johnson, vice president and Navy UCAS program manager for Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems.
The X-47B underwent its first catapult launch from an aircraft carrier in May.