X-47B UCAS demonstrator conducts first fly-in arrested landing

Shore-based test of the X-47B unmanned combat air system (UCAS) demonstrator adds momentum, confidence for upcoming carrier trials by Northrop Grumman and the U.S. Navy.

Northrop Grumman Corp. (Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Md., USA) reported on May 6 that it and the U.S. Navy conducted the first fly-in arrested landing of the X-47B Unmanned Combat Air System (UCAS) demonstrator.

Conducted May 4 at the U.S. Navy's shore-based catapult and arresting gear complex, the test represents the first arrested landing by a Navy unmanned aircraft. It marks the beginning of the final phase of testing prior to carrier-based trials planned for later this month.

"This precision, shore-based trap by the X-47B puts the UCAS Carrier Demonstration [UCAS-D] program on final approach for a rendezvous with naval aviation history," says Capt. Jaime Engdahl, the Navy's UCAS program manager. "It moves us a critical step closer to proving that un systems can be integrated seamlessly into Navy carrier operations."

During an arrested landing, the incoming aircraft extends its landing hook to catch a heavy cable extended across the aircraft landing area. Tension in the wire brings the aircraft to a rapid and controlled stop.

Carl Johnson, vice president and Navy UCAS program manager for Northrop Grumman, said this first arrested landing reinforced what the company already knew. The arrested landing test culminates more than three months of shore-based carrier suitability testing at Naval Air Station Patuxent River. Testing included precision approaches, touch-and-go landings, and precision landings by the X-47B air vehicle.

For the arrested landing, the X-47B used a navigation approach that closely mimics the technique it will use to land on an aircraft carrier at sea.