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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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RE: Dog fights?
By Fritzr on 10/11/2011 3:36:06 PM , Rating: 5
The leading letter is the type designator. The trailing letter is the Mark or variant designator.
X-47B) Model: 47, Class: Experimental, Variant: B (most likely the 3rd variant, but the letter just identifies the specific version)
B-52J) Type: 52, Class: Bomber, Variant: J
P-41 Mustang) Type: 41, Class: Pursuit, Codename: Mustang

While the variant letter usually indicates minor variations from the prototype, The Class/Type identifiers can duplicate pre-1962 designations. For example there are several entirely different F4 aircraft
F-4D Skyray (aka F6)
F-4F Wildcat
F-4U Corsair
F-4 Lightning (variant of the P-38)
F-4 Phantom II (today this is the "real" F4)
Phantom II models include the F-4H, F-4B, F-4C, F-4D, F-4E, F4-EJ, F-4G, RF-4C, F4H-1F(redesignated F-4A), F-4J, F-4N, F-4S, QF-4(target drone), EF-4C(redesignated F-4C Wild Weasel), F-4G Wild Weasel V(note the variant indicator added to Wild Weasel [WW aircraft are Electronic Warfare platforms]) there are likely additional variants of the F-4 Phantom II :) The prototypes were the XF-4H-1 (experimental) & YF-4H-1 (pre-production fighter)

The non-Phantom II F-4s predate the current naming system.

Your question about the drone fighter has come up before. I remember another article (I think it was Daily Tech) about the problems being encountered developing combat drones. So they are in the works :)

RE: Dog fights?
By Smilin on 10/11/2011 4:08:14 PM , Rating: 2
Never knew what that P meant. Thx!

RE: Dog fights?
By DougF on 10/11/2011 4:48:23 PM , Rating: 2
Just to piggyback on your explanation:
The U.S. military uses an MDS (Mission, Design, Series) designation for aircraft. So X-47B equals:
M=Mission (X-experimental)
D=Design Number (47th design)
S=Series (B-second variant)
Note: There are ALWAYS exceptions to the rules, and aircraft can have more than one mission (MC-130H, KC-10, SR-71, etc).
The Design numbers reset to 1 a few years ago, so we could see repeats of numbers from previous aircraft (ala another B-17), but it's unlikely.
Haven't seen an MDS go beyond the "Z"series, though, so no idea what would happen there.

RE: Dog fights?
By borismkv on 10/11/2011 5:43:40 PM , Rating: 2
As a note, SR-71's designation having two letters doesn't refer to dual roles. SR-71s were strict reconnaissance craft. SR stands for Strategic Reconnaissance. It was originally supposed to have the designation of RS-71 (Recon. Mission, Spaceplane airframe), but there was a general that liked Strategic Recon. better, and lobbied to have the name changed. The 71 was because it followed the Original Bomber numbering system (B-70 was the design prior in that group). has all the details on the designation system.

RE: Dog fights?
By rcc on 10/12/2011 5:52:41 PM , Rating: 2
: )

As long as we are sorting everything out... would be P-41 Mustang be related to the P-51 Mustang?

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