Unmanned X-47B Achieves First Carrier Landing

 - July 10, 2013, 5:27 PM
The X-47B unmanned combat air system demonstrator completes its first arrested landing on board the aircraft carrier George H.W. Bush on July 10. (Photo: U.S. Navy)

The Northrop Grumman X-47B unmanned combat air system (UCAS) demonstrator completed its first arrested landing on board an aircraft carrier Wednesday when it touched down on the USS George H.W. Bush off the coast of Virginia. The U.S. Navy said the event made history as the first time a tailless, unmanned autonomous aircraft landed on a modern aircraft carrier.

The fighter-sized UCAS flew to the carrier from the Patuxent River, Md., Naval Air Station in 35 minutes and caught the arresting wire with its tail hook. The landing effectively brought the aircraft from about 145 knots to a stop in less than 350 feet, according to the Navy. Shortly after the initial landing, the X-47B was launched off the ship using the carrier’s catapult and performed one more arrested landing.

“It isn’t very often you get a glimpse of the future. Today, those of us aboard USS George H.W. Bush got that chance as we witnessed the X-47B make its first ever arrested landing aboard an aircraft carrier,” stated Navy Secretary Ray Mabus. “The operational unmanned aircraft soon to be developed have the opportunity to radically change the way presence and combat power are delivered from our aircraft carriers.”

The July 10 landing was the final part of three at-sea test periods for X-47B during the last eight months. The aircraft performed its first catapult launch from the Bush on May 14.