Northrop Places Futuristic Drone on Carrier

Gary Robbins – North County Times Nov 27, 2012

The X-47B unmanned combat air vehicle – a futuristic drone largely developed by Northrop Grumman’s San Diego operation – has been hoisted aboard an aircraft carrier for the first time for the start of limited testing at sea.

Northrop officials said the X-47B was placed on the deck of the carrier Harry S. Truman, which will soon leave Norfolk, Va., for offshore exercises.

“We have placed a remote-control device on the ship, so we can do things like move the UCAV up-and-down the ship’s elevator and move it into the catapult,” said Brooks McKinney, a Northrop spokesman who is currently on the Truman. “We want to see if it can be moved safely and whether it is compatible with carrier operations”

The X-47B is part of a demonstration project that is meant to show that unmanned vehicles can operate with manned aircraft from aircraft carriers. The drone completed initial first flight testing Southern California last year and was then moved to the East Coast for more advanced testing. The aircraft is designed to fly to altitudes of 40,000 feet, and could be used for reconnaissance and intelligence gathering and possibly as a weapons platform.

The testing on the Truman “will break new ground for the Navy,” said Cmdr. Kevin Stephens, a spokesman for Commander, Naval Air Forces at North Island Naval Air Station.

“If all of the testing goes well, they potentially could go ahead and have the first catapult fly-away of the X47B from a carrier,” he said. “That’s stretch goal, but it is a possibility.”


Also see: Rise of the machines