X-47B UCAS completes arrested landing aboard aircraft carrier

Northrop Grumman's X-47B unmanned combat air system (UCAS) completed the first arrested landing of an unmanned aircraft aboard the USS George H.W. Bush on July 10.

Related Suppliers

Northrop Grumman Corp. (Naval Air Station, Patuxent River, Md., USA) and the U.S. Navy reported on July 10 that they have completed the first arrested landing of the X-47B unmanned combat air system (UCAS) carrier demonstration aircraft on the deck of the USS George H.W. Bush.

The Northrop Grumman-built aircraft landed at 12:23 p.m. EDT while the aircraft carrier was under way off the coast of Virginia, and marks the latest and most significant achievement for the program during carrier sea trials, which began in May.

The X-47B aircraft took off from Naval Air Station (NAS) Patuxent River, Md., July 10. A mission operator aboard the carrier took control of the aircraft and monitored the flight operations, which included several planned approaches in preparation for the first arrested landing.

During testing, the X-47B completed the 35-minute journey from Pax River to the carrier and caught the three-wire with the aircraft's tailhook. The arrested landing effectively brought the aircraft from approximately 145 knots to stop in less than 350 ft/107m.

"Today's historic carrier landing and our operations aboard USS George H.W. Bush show, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that tailless unmanned aircraft can integrate seamlessly and operate safely from an aircraft carrier at sea," says Capt. Jaime Engdahl, Navy UCAS program manager. "Beyond X-47B, this moment in history was made possible by an extremely disciplined and dedicated government-industry team that took a brand new unmanned combat air system from initial concept to highly successful demonstration in one of the most demanding operating environments in the world."

"Although it looks like it could be an easy maneuver, today's successful arrested landings points back to a rigorous test plan focused on software development and system maturity to prove today that an autonomous unmanned system such as the X-47B can safely, seamlessly and predictably integrate into Navy carrier operations," says Carl Johnson, vice president and Navy UCAS program manager for Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems.

The arrested landings aboard the Bush mark the third major aviation achievement by the UCAS-D program since May. On May 14, the X-47B became the first unmanned aircraft to be catapult launched from a Nimitz class aircraft carrier. On May 17, the aircraft performed the first in a series of precision approaches and touch-and-go landings on a carrier by an unmanned system.

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. It remains to be seen what, if anything, the U.S. federal government will do to further develop the X-47B platform.

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.

Editor Pick

Hengshen to supply prepreg to Bombardier for qualification

China-based carbon fiber and prepreg manufacturer Hengshen will supply aircraft manufacturer Bombardier with prepreg for qualification and potential production application.