The US Navy has moved a step closer to its goal of operating unmanned combat aircraft from aircraft carriers with successful at-sea deck trials of an Unmanned Combat Air System demonstrator. The X-47B, which is almost the same size as an F/A-18C Hornet, embarked onboard USS Harry S. Truman for two weeks of compatibility and handling exercises.
These exercises included taxiing theX-47B on the flight deck, manoeuvring the aircraft up to the ship’s catapults, taxiing the aircraft over the ship’s arresting cables and conducting fuelling operations. TheUAV was also moved around between the flight deck and the hangar bay via the aircraft lift.
It having been proved the demonstrator could perform in the hostile electromagnetic environment on a Nimitz class aircraft carrier, the next stage is to carry out the first carrier catapult launch and arrested landing. This is scheduled for later this year.