Officials at the North Grumman Corporation (NGC) announce that the United States Navy conducted the first-ever flight test of the X-47B Autonomous Unmanned Aircraft over the US East Coast.
The flight mission took place on July 29, at 11:36 am EDT (1536 GMT), and saw the vehicle soar into the sky above the Naval Air Station Patuxent (Pax) River. This aerial vehicle is designated as an Unmanned Combat Air System (UCAS).
According to officials, the airplane remained airborne for around 36 minutes, during which time it demonstrated that its tailless design is indeed very effective. The UCAS is about the size of a strike fighter, and has tremendous tactical capabilities.
Originally, the X-47B flew over the US West Coast, primarily from the Edwards Air Force Base (EAFB), in California. The UCAS was transported to the East Coast this June. It took the government a couple of weeks to move the aircraft around.
Sunday's test flight represents the first time the X-47B has successfully and completely integrated inside the command and control structure of the Pax River complex, as well as the first time the UCAS has met the air traffic patterns characteristic to the East Coast.
“This flight of the X-47B is the first time an autonomous, carrier-capable unmanned system has flown at Pax River,” NGC Navy UCAS program manager, Carl Johnson, explains.
“It's also a major milestone for the program as the Navy/Northrop Grumman team prepares the aircraft to enter carrier suitability testing this fall, the last major phase of testing before we begin carrier trials in 2013,” he goes on to say.
NGC officials say that the UCAS performed admirably during its testing, reaching a top altitude of 7,500 feet (2,286 meters) and a maximum air speed of 180 knots (around 333 kilometers per hour).
“This flight makes two critical points for the Northrop Grumman/Navy Integrated Test Team,” explains Daryl Martis, who is the test director of the X-47B program at the Northrop Grumman Corporation
“It validates the performance of the aircraft demonstrated during its initial flight testing at Edwards, and it proves that we've successfully implemented the command and control structure required to operate the X-47B safely from Pax River,” he concludes.