Wed, Nov 28, 2012
First Carrier In History to Host Unmanned Aircraft Testing
A team from the Navy Unmanned Combat Air System program office (PMA-268) has embarked aboard the U.S.S. Truman to conduct tests and demonstrations of the X-47B unmanned aerial system. The purpose of the exercise is to demonstrate seamless integration into carrier flight deck operations through various tests with the aircraft, which boasts a wingspan of more than 62 feet (wider than that of an F/A-18 Super Hornet). During each demonstration, the X-47B will be controlled remotely via a hand-held control display unit (CDU).
Truman will be the first aircraft carrier in Naval aviation history to host test operations for an unmanned aircraft, the Navy said in a news release.
Capt. Jaime Engdahl, N-UCAS Program Manager, said the X-47B's delivery aboard Truman was among the most historic moments in the program's history. "This is a very important moment for the X-47B," said Engdahl. "The moment the aircraft set down on Truman's deck was the moment it officially met the fleet."
Cmdr. Kevin Watkins, N-UCAS's flight test director, agreed with Engdahl's sentiment. "Bringing the X-47B aboard Truman is a big milestone for the program," said Watkins. "We've been testing the aircraft for the last several years and to finally put it on a ship is so exciting. If these tests are successful, they will prove that the future for unmanned aircraft is wide open."
While technical challenges are to be expected when introducing the new system to a carrier's flight deck, Engdahl said he expects the tests to be successful citing strong teamwork between his team and Truman's crew.
"The support from Truman has been phenomenal and it's going to continue to take close cooperation between the carrier's Sailors and the UCAS-D team to make these demonstrations successful," said Engdahl. "To operate large, unmanned aircraft off of a carrier, from anywhere in the world, will be a key capability for the Navy after these tests are successful."
The X-47B test will be conducted over a three week period which will include in-port and underway demonstrations aboard Truman.
(U.S. Navy photograph)
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