Drone Lands on Aircraft Carrier
In a press release, Northrop Grumman Corporation announced the company, working with the US Navy, completed the first arrested landing of the X-47B on the deck of the USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77). The aircraft carrier was under way off the coast of Virginia.
The press release stated that the X-47B aircraft took off from Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Md., (NAS Pax River) July 10. A mission operator aboard the carrier took control of the aircraft and monitored the flight operations, which included several planned precision approaches in preparation for the first arrested landing. The arrested landing effectively brought the aircraft from approximately 145 knots to stop in less than 350 feet.
However, subsequent reporting in the Navy Times noted that while the X-47B landed twice on July 10, a third attempt was waved off “when the aircraft’s systems detected a problem with an onboard computer.” Another attempt July 15 was also aborted when another of the X-47Bs developed unspecified technical issues while in flight from NAS Pax River. The article noted that “The Unmanned Carrier Launched Surveillance and Strike Program is the follow-on effort to develop an operational unmanned aircraft using technologies and lessons learned from the X-47. Navy officials hope to field a UCLASS aircraft by 2019.” The article notes that the technology demonstration program is all but over, with funding running out at the end of September.
Popular Science also covered both the successes and failures of the landings. That article noted “If the X-47B were a military aircraft about to be pressed into service, this would be a problem. But the X-47B is a technological tested, whose failures teach researchers just as much as the successes.”
Northrop Grumman is the Navy's UCAS-D prime contractor. The company designed and produced the program's two X-47B air vehicles. An integrated test team of Northrop Grumman and Navy personnel executed the rigorous flight test and carrier suitability test sequence that culminated in today's first arrested landing of an autonomous unmanned aircraft.
Northrop Grumman's UCAS-D industry team includes Pratt & Whitney, GKN Aerospace, Eaton, General Electric, UTC Aerospace Systems, Dell, Honeywell, Moog, Wind River, Parker Aerospace, Rockwell Collins and Lockheed Martin.