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Industry News
Northrop Grumman, U.S. Navy complete at-sea deck handling trials of X-47B

The deck-handling trials of the X-47B Unmanned Combat Air Systems (UCAS) demonstrator aircraft aboard the USS Harry S. Truman aircraft carrier, will be followed by carrier landings in 2013.

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Posted on: 12/27/2012
Source: CompositesWorld

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Northrop Grumman Corp. and the U.S. Navy reported on Dec. 19 that they have successfully completed a series of deck handling trials of the X-47B Unmanned Combat Air System (UCAS) demonstrator aircraft aboard the aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman (CVN-75).

The exercises, conducted from Nov. 27 to Dec. 17, demonstrated the ability to maneuver the tailless, strike-fighter-sized aircraft quickly and precisely on the flight deck using a wireless handheld controller. They are the latest in a series of test activities leading up to the first carrier landings of the X-47B planned for 2013.

"The X-47B deck trials proved convincingly that the design and operation of the aircraft are fully compatible with the rhythm and operational requirements of the carrier flight deck," says Mike Mackey, UCAS-D program director for Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems. "They provided a major boost to the team's confidence as we move steadily toward our first carrier landings next year."

Northrop Grumman is the Navy's prime contractor for the UCAS-Carrier Demonstration (UCAS-D) program. The company designed and produced two X-47B aircraft for the program. One aircraft was on the ship; the other remains at Naval Air Station Patuxent River where it is undergoing additional shore-based carrier suitability testing.

The deck trials were conducted while the USS Harry S. Truman was in port at Naval Station Norfolk, and while the ship was under way off the coast of Virginia. Mackey says the testing included taxiing the X-47B on the flight deck, maneuvering the aircraft up to the ship's catapults using the Northrop Grumman-designed Control Display Unit; taxiing the aircraft over the ship's arresting cables and conducting fueling operations. The team also moved the aircraft up and down the ship's elevators between the flight deck and the hangar bay.
"We proved that the X-47B air system is mature and can perform flawlessly in the most hostile electromagnetic environment on earth, a Nimitz class Navy aircraft carrier," adds Mackey.

In 2013, the UCAS-D program plans to begin conducting shore-based arrested landings of the X-47B at Patuxent River. Carrier trials, which will include both landings and catapult launches, are planned for later in the spring.


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Northrop Grumman's UCAS-D industry team includes Pratt & Whitney, Lockheed Martin, GKN Aerospace, Eaton, General Electric, UTC Aerospace Systems, Dell, Honeywell, Moog, Wind River, Parker Aerospace and Rockwell Collins. 

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