Over the last few years, several new milestones in unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs, or “drones”) have been reached by the U.S. Navy. The Navy has been developing a carrier-based unmanned combat air vehicle (UCAV) manufactured by Northrop Grumman. The UCAV is known as the X-47B, and it has been progressing by leaps and bounds during its testing.
On May 14, 2013, the X-47B was successfully launched from the flight deck of the carrier USS George H.W. Bush (CVN-77). That take-off marks the first time in history that a UAV was catapulted from an aircraft carrier.Three days later, another milestone was reached when the X-47B performed touch-and-go landings and take-offs to and from the flight deck of the USS George H.W. Bush while underway in the Atlantic Ocean.
Less than two months later, the X-47B took off from shore and landed on the deck of the USS George H.W. Bush, conducting the first ever arrested landing of a UAV on an aircraft carrier that was steaming at sea.
Since the end of 2013, the Navy has continued to progress the UCAV program. So far, all of the tests, including night flights and increasing the difficulty of the UAVs’ capability envelopes, have been conducted with the X-47B’s taking off and landing from empty flight decks.
On August 17, 2014, history was made once again when an X-47B took off from the USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN-71) alongside an F/A-18 Super Hornet. This achievement marks the first time that a UAV operated in conjunction with manned aircraft onboard an aircraft carrier at sea.
We look forward to watching even more history being made in Naval aviation, the U.S. Navy, and the U.S. military as a whole.
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Military Connection: New Naval History: By Debbie Gregory