The X-47B is the only stealthy UAV under development that is currently acknowledged by the Pentagon–unless you count the recently revealed Predator-C, which General Atomics says has been built with the company’s own funds.
Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency
We all know that unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) present operational challenges, and making them into stealthy, tailless jets and asking them to do combat is even more challenging. But what about an unmanned stealthy tailless combat jet that must take off and land on an aircraft carrier?
Northrop Grumman’s X-47B UCAS-D carrier-borne unmanned combat air system demonstrator is currently undergoing sub-system checks before final assembly for a first flight date in November next year. Having been developed at El Segundo, the first X-47B (AV-1) is now at Palmdale, California, where the vehicle’s centerbody/inner wing structure is essentially complete.
A supersonic business jet (SSBJ), which many in the industry see as inevitable but just not in the near future, may have taken another step forward when Raytheon Aircraft partner Northrop Grumman unveiled its latest design for a supersonic military strike aircraft.
Northrop Grumman has won the U.S. Navy's Unmanned Combat Air Systems Technology Demonstrator (UCAS-D) contract, worth $635 million over the next six years. The company's proposal for an unmanned combat air vehicle (UCAV) capable of operating from aircraft carriers, designated the X-47B, beat the X-45N submission from Boeing. The decision is ostensibly a big blow for Boeing, which pioneered the development of UCAVs in the U.S.
Hummingbirds are incredibly aerobatic, can hover, fly backward and can even hover and fly upside down. But the most amazing thing about hummingbirds is their endurance–these tiny birds, weighing little more than five grams, fly for 20 hours as they migrate across the Gulf of Mexico.
Joint Unmanned Combat Air System (J-UCAS): As well as its “black world” programs such as the Lockheed Martin “son of DarkStar” that was reportedly used in the intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance role over Iraq, the U.S. is developing a UCAV in a publicly visible program to satisfy the needs of the U.S. Air Force and Navy.
Having led the way with unmanned combat air vehicle (UCAV) concept demonstrations, the U.S. Air Force seems to be having second thoughts. Meanwhile, Europe is playing catch-up, but with three entirely separate UCAV demonstrators: the pan-European Neuron, the BAE Raven and the EADS Barracuda. Good technical progress is apparent, but debates about requirements, operational utility and cost are ongoing.
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