Northrop Grumman launches U.S. Navy UAV

Northrop Grumman has unveiled the first of the U.S. Navy's new unmanned combat aircraft, designated the X-47B Navy Unmanned Combat Air System (UCAS) and designed for aircraft carrier use.

Northrop Grumman (Palmdale, Calif.) on Dec. 16 unveiled the first of the U.S. Navy's new unmanned combat aircraft at a ceremony attended by Navy officials, state and local government representatives, suppliers and Northrop Grumman employees. The new aircraft, which according to Northrop Grumman features some composites and is designated the X-47B Navy Unmanned Combat Air System (UCAS), is the first of two aircraft Northrop Grumman will produce for the Navy to demonstrate unmanned combat aircraft operations from the deck of an aircraft carrier.

"Unveiling the first X-47B UCAS aircraft signals a sea change in military aviation, made possible through the Navy's vision and leadership," said Scott Winship, Northrop Grumman vice president and Navy UCAS program manager. "I'm extremely proud of the Northrop Grumman-led industry team for its tireless dedication and hard work accomplishing this important milestone."

The Navy awarded the demonstration contract to Northrop Grumman in 2007 and aircraft assembly was completed in just over a year. "The X-47B will demonstrate how unmanned combat aircraft can operate from aircraft carriers and is a necessary first step toward extending the aircraft carrier's reach and power projection from anywhere in the world," said Capt. Martin Deppe, the U.S. Navy Unmanned Combat Aircraft System program manager. "We look forward to a time when we can introduce a new long-range, persistent, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) -- strike capability to the carrier decks of tomorrow."

The aircraft will now undergo subsystem and structural testing in preparation for first flight in fall 2009. UCAS CV Demonstration sea trials are planned to begin in late 2011.

The second X-47B aircraft is in initial assembly at the Palmdale, Calif., facility and is expected to be completed in 2009. The X-47B UCAS is produced by Northrop Grumman and industry teammates including Dell, Eaton Aerospace, GE Aviation, GKN Aerospace, Goodrich, Hamilton Sundstrand, Honeywell, Lockheed Martin, Moog, Parker Aerospace, Pratt & Whitney, Rockwell Collins and Wind River.