Navy X-47B Demonstrator Takes First Gear Up Cruise Flight
October 11, 2011 1:54 PM
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X-47B in Flight
X-47 from Below
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
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.
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RE: Dog fights?
10/12/2011 12:12:36 PM
I'm totally against the idea of having robotic fighters due to the flexibility that a real pilot in the seat affords.
I'll admit though, in a real pilot versus robotic pilot scenario, say the package was in deep past the FLOT carrying a full bombload and happened to be pinged by a 2 or 4-ship of Migs/Sukhois, the robotic pilot would be far more flexible. The human pilot might turn and run or take a shot, though, if they take a shot, if fired upon themselves they'll have to emergency jettison all their ground ordinance or risk both their own life and the airframe's. A drone though, they can gamble with it as they cost less to begin with--i.e. play chicken with it and see which side wimps out first. The first one to brake from radar cone/lock ends up at the extreme disadvantage (and their slammer will lose radar guidance assuming they haven't gone active yet) reducing the PK.
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