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X-47B unmanned stealth fighter tested aboard the USS Truman


December 14, 2012

The X-47B UCAS arrives onboard the USS Truman, the first modern aircraft carrier to host test operations for an unmanned aircraft (Photo: U.S. Navy MC3 Lorenzo J. Burleson)

The X-47B UCAS arrives onboard the USS Truman, the first modern aircraft carrier to host test operations for an unmanned aircraft (Photo: U.S. Navy MC3 Lorenzo J. Burleson)

Image Gallery (5 images)

Northrop Grumman has delivered two X-47B Unmanned Combat Aircraft Systems (UCAS) to the US Navy, which has begun three weeks of tests aboard the USS Truman – the first aircraft carrier to host test operations for an unmanned aircraft. The X-47B is based on the Pegasus X-47A (originally designed in 2001) but features improved landing gear and folding wings for work aboard carriers.

Currently the Navy is testing how the stealth aircraft taxis aboard the carrier. The X-47B's flight control system is autonomous, but ground maneuvers are controlled remotely under the watchful eye of an operator using an arm-mounted control display unit (CDU). One official said the fighter could be launched from the ship's catapult if the conditions were right, but for the time being they need to see how it handles in a crowded space tangled with arresting gear wires, elevators, and catapult connections.

"Nobody has ever done this before," said Lt. Cmdr. Larry Tarver, Truman's aircraft handling officer. "Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) have flown all over the world, but an X-47B has never operated on an aircraft carrier. Every evolution with this aircraft is taken step-by-step because we don't fully know how it will react to a carrier environment. It's a little out of our comfort zone, so our safety precautions are maximized."

The relative size of the X-47B to manned fighters (Photo: U.S. Navy MC3 Kristina Young)

In a Navy press release from the ship, operator Gerrit Everson is quoted as saying, "These tests proved that we can taxi the X-47B with the precision that an aircraft carrier’s flight deck requires.” You can see it for yourself in the following video.

Source: US Navy via Defense News

About the Author
Jason Falconer Jason is a freelance writer based in central Canada with a background in computer graphics. He has written about hundreds of humanoid robots on his website Plastic Pals and is an avid gamer with an unsightly collection of retro consoles, cartridges, and controllers. All articles by Jason Falconer

Tonghowe: he has to signal facing that way. Otherwise, he couldn't see what the plane was doing, could he?

David Clarke

Unmanned rules. As a pilot, I can say that you spend a lot of effort on not being overwhelmed when stuff is going on. For combat in particular, a room full of people in charge of an X-47 - who are not going to die - is a vastly superior system to one poor dude trying to keep it all together, plus having his butt on the line.

Todd Dunning

Good comment Todd.. Agree 100%

Gregory Minor

Google can get a car to drive itself half way around the world in public traffic with pedestrians roaming. Surely the USAF could automate this??


re; Todd Dunning and Gregory J. Minor

The manned aircraft can't be hacked or jammed into committing an atrocity or landing/crashing in Iran.


Funniest clip. That fella is signalling to an unmanned plane with his back facing the remote operator...

Tonghowe Seeto
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