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X-47B in Flight  (Source: Northrop)

X-47 from Below  (Source: Northrop)
The flight is part of expanded envelope for the program

The military is using robots for bomb discovery/disposal and for carrying equipment for forces in the field. The military is also moving to unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to help patrol skies and keep human soldiers safe from unnecessary risks.
The last new UAV we talked about for the Navy was back in December of 2010 when the X-47B demonstrator first appeared. That unmanned X-47B demonstrator has hit a new milestone that is very important. The demonstrator has made its first flight with its landing gear retracted in cruise configuration.
During the flight, which took place from Edwards Air Force Base, the precision navigation hardware and software was validated. This is the software and hardware that will allow the fighter to land on the deck of a moving ship.

"Last week's flight gave us our first clean look at the aerodynamic cruise performance of the X-47B air system…and it is proving out all of our predictions," said Janis Pamiljans, vice president and Navy UCAS program manager for Northrop Grumman's Aerospace Systems sector. "Reaching this critical test point demonstrates the growing maturity of the air system, and its readiness to move to the next phase of flight testing."

The flight was part of the expanded envelop of the first two X-47B aircraft that were built by Northrop Grumman for the Navy Unmanned Combat Air System Carrier Demonstration program. The X-47B is set to start carrier testing in 2012.
The design of the X-47B allows for attack missions with low observability, and the aircraft uses no tail, looking like a combination of the F-117 Nighthawk and the B-2 Spirit.

Source: Northrop Grumman

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This program will form a more important...
By Amiga500 on 10/11/2011 2:00:57 PM , Rating: 4
Part of the USN inventory than the F-35.

By inperfectdarkness on 10/11/2011 2:59:09 PM , Rating: 2
we're a lot further from combat readiness for this airframe than the f35 is. while i remain optimistic about the future potential of UAV's, manned aircraft are what is needed NOW...for combat capability. UAV's do not yet have the size, payload or capability. someday...but not yet.

By Amiga500 on 10/11/2011 4:09:29 PM , Rating: 2
You never seen a global hawk before?

The UCAV capability already exists.

RE: This program will form a more important...
By DougF on 10/11/2011 4:55:01 PM , Rating: 2
For air to air combat, yes. But the MQ-1 and MQ-9 are combat-proven UCAS in operations over Iraq, Afghanistan, and coming to a theatre of operations near you...

By inperfectdarkness on 10/12/2011 12:17:58 PM , Rating: 2
i'll invite you to do your own research on the payload capacity of the mq-9 vs the payload capacity of an a-10. the answer will shock you.

we do not have air-ground UCAV capabilities sufficient to match a single fighter currently.

this has nothing to do with a "military industrial complex" conspiracy. the FACT is that the day when a UCAV can wield a payload of even 10,000lbs in munitions is not here yet. and that's a CONSERVATIVE payload.

the f-35 is needed NOW as a stop-gap, if nothing else. legacy f-18's cannot be kept in service indefinitely.

By Ringold on 10/11/2011 7:00:27 PM , Rating: 2
Mhmm, because Libya demonstrated our lacking air power? Actually, demonstrated Europe's collapsing defense capability, but thats different.

In the interest of saving billions upon billions, I dont see a problem skipping the F35 generation and rushing in this X47 and its kind. But, that'd piss off the military industrial complex too much, however sensible it may be.

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