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Sun, Feb 06, 2011

First Flight: USN X-47B UCAS

Was That A UFO Over Edwards AFB?? ('Sure Looked Like One)

It was a heckuva week for Northrop Grumman Corporation and the Navy as they conducted a successful first flight of the X-47B Unmanned Combat Air System Demonstration (UCAS-D) aircraft.

The first flight was conducted under hazy skies at Edwards Air Force Base (AFB), Calif., on Feburary 4th, and began at 1409 PST and lasted 29 minutes. Northrop Grumman notes that the flight is a critical first step for the Navy/Northrop Grumman UCAS-D team toward demonstrating that a tailless, fighter-sized unmanned system can safely land and take off from the deck of a U.S. aircraft carrier.

During the flight, the vehicle provided test data that will contribute to the verification and validation of the X-47B's air vehicle's guidance and navigation software, and the aerodynamic control of its tailless design. The successful completion of the first flight represents the culmination, verification and certification of pre-flight system data collected and analyzed by both the Navy and Northrop Grumman. Prior to the flight, the test team demonstrated airworthiness of the airframe through proof load testing; propulsion system reliability through accelerated mission tests; software maturity and reliability through rigorous simulations; and overall system reliability through low speed and high speed taxi tests.

"First flight represents the compilation of numerous tests to validate the airworthiness of the aircraft, and the robustness and reliability of the software that allows it to operate as an autonomous system and eventually have the ability to take-off and land aboard an aircraft carrier," noted Capt. Jaime Engdahl, UCAS-D program manager, US Navy.

The Navy awarded the UCAS-D prime contract to Northrop Grumman in August 2007. The six-year contract includes the development of two X-47B fighter-sized aircraft. The program will demonstrate the first-ever carrier launches and recoveries by an autonomous, unmanned aircraft with a low-observable-relevant planform. Autonomous aerial refueling will also be performed after carrier integration and at-sea trials. Northrop Grumman's industry team includes GKN Aerospace, Lockheed Martin, Pratt & Whitney, Eaton, General Electric, Hamilton Sundstrand, Dell, Honeywell, Goodrich, Moog, Wind River, Parker Aerospace, and Rockwell Collins.

USN X-47B UCAS Specifications

Overall Length 38.2 feet
Wingspan 62.1 Feet
Height 10.4 feet
Aircraft Carrier Takeoff Gross Weight approximately 44,500 pounds
Speed High subsonic
PowerPlant One Pratt & Whitney F100-220U engine
Payload Provisions 4500 pounds, plus allowance for electro-optical, infrared, radar and electronic support measures sensors
Autonomous Aerial Refueling Provisions US Navy and US Air Force styles
 

The X-47B aircraft will remain at Edwards AFB for flight envelope expansion before transitioning to Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Md. later this year. There, the system will undergo additional tests to validate its readiness to begin testing in the maritime and carrier environment. In the meantime, the UCAS-D program is preparing the X-47B for carrier trials in 2013.

FMI: www.northropgrumman.com/review/005-us-navy-ucas-d-program.html, www.navair.navy.mil/index.cfm?fuseaction=home.display&key=7468CDCC-8A55-4D30-95E3-761683359B26

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