Navy X-47B to Make History Today

May 14, 2013 No Comments by

The U.S. Navy plans to make aviation history on Tuesday by catapulting an unmanned jet off an aircraft carrier for the first time, testing a long-range, stealthy, bat-winged plane that represents a jump forward in drone technology.

The Northrop Grumman X-47B, which can carry the equivalent of two precision-guided bombs and fly 2,000 nautical miles in one trip, is due to take off from the USS George H. W. Bush in the Atlantic using the same sling-shot system that sends manned aircraft aloft from the short runways aboard aircraft carriers. Because of its stealth potential and a range nearly twice that of the Lockheed Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, the X-47B and its successors are seen as one potential answer to the threat posed by medium-range anti-ship missiles developed by potential rivals like China and Iran, defense analysts say.

The missiles and other so-called anti-access, area denial weapons would force U.S. aircraft carriers to operate far enough from shore that F-35 and F/A-18 aircraft would have to undergo refueling to carry out their missions, leaving them vulnerable to attack.

But an unmanned jet like the X-47B could give the Navy both a long-range strike and reconnaissance capability.

For the complete story by David Alexander of Reuters, click here.

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Online Editor I've been around airplanes since I was a kid. That's when my uncle, a professional pilot, showed me how to fly his Cessna 177 Cardinal. l later became a writer and editor, so covering the exciting and ever-changing aviation industry -- which I've been doing in Flight Journal's Flybys since the late '90s -- was a natural fit.
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