X-47B UCAS-D enters flight-test activities

Sep 26, 2011 No Comments by

The first of two Northrop Grumman X-47B Unmanned Combat Aircraft System-Demonstration (UCAS-D) air vehicles built for the U.S. Navy has been successfully flown at Edwards AFB, California. Aircraft carrier demonstration sea trials will follow after thorough flight testing of the X-47B unoccupied UCAS-D air vehicles is complete.

The X-47B UCAS-D air vehicles are strike fighter size and are powered by single non-afterburning 16,000-pound-thrust Pratt & Whitney F100-PW-220U turbofan engines for their high subsonic maximum speed. They are 38.2 feet long, 10.4 feet high with an unfolded wingspan of 62.1 feet (30.9 feet folded). They have a range of 2,100 nautical miles, a combat radius of 1,500nm and ferry range of 3,500-plus nm. They will be able to fly at altitudes of more than 40,000 feet and carry 4,500-pound internal payloads in two side-by-side weapon bays. The production version, if built, will feature autonomous aerial refueling using the U.S. Navy probe and drogue and/or U.S. Air Force boom receptacle aerial refueling systems.

The X-47B is the follow-on to the earlier X-47A Pegasus Unmanned Combat Aircraft Vehicle (UCAV) program. The X-47B UCAS-D was selected over the navalized X-45C demonstrator offered by Boeing in the earlier Joint-Unmanned Combat Aircraft System program.

The U.S. Navy plans to have combat-capable derivatives of the X-47B in operational service by the year 2020 if flight test and carrier trials prove successful.—Steve Pace

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Budd Davisson is the Editor-in-Chief of Flight Journal. Since 1996, Flight Journal has been the undisputed leader in the field of aviation photojournalism and presented aviation history through the eyes of those who made it.
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