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While X-47B is for non-operational use, its precision navigation algorithms will be used to create the first operational carrier-based unmanned aircraft

The United States Navy launched an unmanned aircraft from a modern carrier flight deck for the first time ever Tuesday. 

The unmanned aircraft was the X-47B Unmanned Combat Air System demonstrator, and its first-ever launch from a modern aircraft carrier represents how manned and unmanned aircraft on carrier flight decks will be merged in the future.

A mission operator aboard the USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77) controlled X-47B, showing off how well it works within a carrier environment. It landed back at Naval Air Station Patuxent River in Maryland. 

"This historic event challenges the paradigm of manned carrier landings that were first conducted more than 90 years ago," said Rear Adm. Mat Winter. "In that challenge though, comes a respect and admiration for all those naval aviators – past and present – that have ensured the value of the Navy aircraft carrier/carrier air wing team.

"The addition of unmanned aviation to this formidable, power projection team provides a complementary capability, which will ensure carrier naval aviation remains viable and relevant for decades to come. It also shows our collective readiness within naval aviation to embrace these future opportunities to move forward with unmanned carrier aviation. 

"This is a big deal!"

While X-47B is for non-operational use, its precision navigation algorithms will be used to create the first operational carrier-based unmanned aircraft.

That future aircraft is expected to feature "24/7 carrier-based intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance and targeting capability" which will operate with manned aviation assets.

Source: Navy Live

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Carriers Are Obsolete!!!
By wbwarren57 on 5/15/2013 2:32:19 PM , Rating: 0
Carriers are obsolete - TOO BIG, TOO EXPENSIVE, TOO COMPLEX to build and operate, require TOO MANY CREW to run, are TOO VULNERABLE to attack as well as the weather, require TOO MANY support ships, are TOO FEW in number, take much TOO LONG to increase in their numbers or even to upgrade meaningfully, are TOO INFLEXIBLE in terms of the mix of aircraft types they can carry, and - perhaps most importantly - are much TOO SLOW to get where they are needed in a crisis.

The future is going to be fleets of unmanned planes (with very long endurance of days or more) fueled by unmanned aerial tankers. Once the requisite technologies are developed (and we are almost there), then even small nations will be able to project power from international airspace anywhere in the world within 15 to 20 hours or less at a fraction of the total cost of designing, building, provisioning, staffing, and operating a single carrier and all of its support ships. Furthermore, these relatively samll nations will be able to afford not just one or two carriers, or even the 15-20 that the US Navy has, but scores of these air fleets that can be deployed at scores of different locations simultaneously.

Let's hope that our present US Navy Carrier-Admiral navy - unlike the Battleship-Admiral navy just prior to World Ware II - will be flexible and far-sighted enough to make the switch before another Pearl Harbor-type attack. Personally, I don't think the US Navy will make the switch soon enough. However, I am hopeful that the US Air Force will do it instead - if only to stick it to their Navy colleagues.

RE: Carriers Are Obsolete!!!
By Reclaimer77 on 5/15/2013 6:06:00 PM , Rating: 2
Man you are crazy. Just...crazy.

RE: Carriers Are Obsolete!!!
By Amiga500 on 5/16/2013 2:07:55 AM , Rating: 2
To be fair to him/her - there is a school of thought that with the advent of missiles like Brahmos, the carrier's days in a war against a suitably equipped adversary are numbered.

Long-ranged supersonic cruise missiles are certainly giving the USN a lot to think about.

RE: Carriers Are Obsolete!!!
By wbwarren57 on 5/16/13, Rating: 0
RE: Carriers Are Obsolete!!!
By StormyKnight on 5/16/2013 8:44:57 AM , Rating: 2
Yeah, the fact that we haven't lost an aircraft carrier in nearly 70 years means nothing, right?

RE: Carriers Are Obsolete!!!
By wbwarren57 on 5/16/13, Rating: 0
RE: Carriers Are Obsolete!!!
By StormyKnight on 5/16/2013 11:48:57 PM , Rating: 2
Battleships were made obsolete by Aircraft Carriers. Aircraft Carriers could strike from beyond the horizon where a Battleship could not. We have not lost an Aircraft Carrier since the end of WWII. In the several conflicts we've been in, Aircraft Carriers have proved invaluable to placing strike capability within days of where they are needed. There is nothing that has made the Aircraft Carrier obsolete and definitely nothing that will replace a human in a cockpit of a combat aircraft. Wherever you're are getting your lives lost because of Aircraft Carriers, I can't pretend to know or understand unless you are referring to the enemy.

RE: Carriers Are Obsolete!!!
By FaaR on 5/17/2013 6:04:14 AM , Rating: 2
How many times, post-WWII, have US aircraft carriers actually been shot at? (Rethorical.) ...Maybe that's more the reason that none have been lost. ;)

That carriers have proven invaluable in the past is undisputed; however that is not proof that they will continue to be so also in the future - which is changing constantly with development of new technology.

The military abandoned horses at one point, even though those too had previously been invaluable. Aircraft carriers will undoubtedly meet the same fate at some point, and only the rigid non-visionary will fail to acknowledge this inevitable fact.

RE: Carriers Are Obsolete!!!
By StormyKnight on 5/19/2013 4:53:29 AM , Rating: 2
The United States Navy constantly evolves technologically as well as strategically. As threats present themselves, countermeasures are made. Will the aircraft carrier become obsolete? Possibly. We have a long way to go before that happens. I can't see into the future, but I believe aircraft carriers will be around a good long time.

RE: Carriers Are Obsolete!!!
By aliasfox on 5/16/2013 9:49:22 AM , Rating: 3
They may be slow and they may be expensive, but if a crisis brews in the Middle East, would you rather your aircraft take off from the Persian Gulf or from Missouri? An aircraft taking off from the Persian Gulf (or the Indian Ocean) can spend 2 hrs in transit and spend 10 hrs loitering. An aircraft from the continental US would have to spend 12 hrs in the air, loiter for 2 hours, then fly home.

When you're starting a ground war, do you want your air cover to be 6 hours away or 6 minutes away?

Additionally, if you're to take out missile defenses (assuming a comparable foe), a large, slow aircraft carrying enough fuel for the return trip would be a sitting duck next to a small, fast, agile aircraft that doesn't have the requirements needed to get itself and its crew home. This is of course predicated on the assumption that our missiles (be they launched from land, air, or sea) wouldn't have been able to take out their defenses.

Long range strategic bombing and aircraft has its place, no doubt. Whether by bomb or missile, a B52 (or a B1 or B2) heavy can deliver more than an F-18. But when you need immediate protection, immediate evacuation, or immediate presence, carriers have their place.

I don't necessarily agree that we need a dozen of them in peacetime though - nearly as many as the rest of the world combined, I think.

RE: Carriers Are Obsolete!!!
By gamerk2 on 5/16/2013 10:08:15 AM , Rating: 1
They may be slow and they may be expensive, but if a crisis brews in the Middle East, would you rather your aircraft take off from the Persian Gulf or from Missouri?

But the problem is, an aircraft carrier has to physically be there. If there is a conflict where an aircraft carrier is NOT currently located...

An aircraft taking off from the Persian Gulf (or the Indian Ocean) can spend 2 hrs in transit and spend 10 hrs loitering. An aircraft from the continental US would have to spend 12 hrs in the air, loiter for 2 hours, then fly home.

Mid-air refueling?

I don't necessarily agree that we need a dozen of them in peacetime though - nearly as many as the rest of the world combined, I think.

Remember that they do need to be refurbished, so if you need 6 operational, then you need twice that so you can rotate them in and out. Hence why we have 12, but only about half that many are ever deployed at any point in time.

Carriers are useful if they are already on site, but lets face it: Anti-ship missiles already have a longer range then air-to-air missiles, so you have significant problems defending carriers against airborne attack. Hence why we have Phalanx, which is basically a giant Gatling gun, hoping to hit a missile in flight through sheer weight of numbers. But just one gets through, and you lose a good 2,000 men, close to a hundred aircraft, and a few hundred billion dollars.

RE: Carriers Are Obsolete!!!
By bug77 on 5/16/2013 1:48:39 PM , Rating: 2
But the problem is, an aircraft carrier has to physically be there. If there is a conflict where an aircraft carrier is NOT currently located...

Brilliant idea. Why didn't fleet command think about keeping carriers near hot zones? Oh wait...

RE: Carriers Are Obsolete!!!
By Chernobyl68 on 5/16/2013 5:55:40 PM , Rating: 2
No, by your argument, the carrier does not have to be there. What, you think the Navy doesn't have mid air refueling? Or that Air Force tankers can't refuel Navy planes? That used to be true, but its not anymore. Odds are the carrier will be closer to the conflict than CONUS.

Increasing transit time also wears out airframes faster than they need to be. Those flight hours add up. Anti-Ship missiles have more to get through than just Phalanx and Goalkeepers. Fleet AEGIS vessels and new anti-air missiles are extremely capable.

RE: Carriers Are Obsolete!!!
By hartleyb on 5/16/2013 4:26:36 PM , Rating: 3
Why do you always get people on these blogs that have no idea what they are talking about. First there is currenlty no replacment for the capability of a carrier. Carriers are much more then a landing fields for aircraft. They help resupply other assets, provide theater comand and control, and they are a huge communications platforms for near realtime intel, which long range aircraft can't replace. Additionally to add they are not sitting ducks i.e. the battle group has up to a 250-500 Nautical Mile envelope of protection around the carrier, both underwater to the upper atmosphere, in addition to the ship board defenses which are multi-layered starting as much as 30 Nautical Miles from the target. Refueling in the air while is has it's purposes is one of the most dangerous things a pilot does especially when you add in lack of sleep on long distance missions. If you ever sit in the combat center for a carrier you get an appreciation for the amount of firepower that can be used. The carrier can fire the missle of all it's battle group assets i.e. ships and aircraft, and pull in their radar and sonar pictures. It will be twenty to thirty years before there is technology that can rival a carrier, and that technology will most likly be space based, not long range missles or aircraft. Pull up Janes, go to the library, or even better yet take a tour, but carriers are here to stay becuase the are the most powerful weapon in our arsenal next to a nuke.

RE: Carriers Are Obsolete!!!
By CubicleDilbert on 5/20/2013 4:45:11 PM , Rating: 2
Yeah, dream on...
Carriers are only worth their huge costs while enemies have no means to defeat them. Your assumption of a 250 miles radius of protection is... just an assumption.

Russian Uboats have trailed and successfully shadowed US carriers many times. Even in Nato exercises the German Uboats successfully infiltrated the protection zone.

Anyway, a US general was fired because the protection shield did not work when a German Uboat suddenly a emerged just side by side to USS Enterprise.
Rumor has it that the Germans immediately opened the hatch and blasted Bavarian "Ooomphtata" music to the US soldiers. The accompanying US commander on board the German vessel was deeply shocked by the way. :-D

And the newest German Uboats launched this month are even 10x better than the old ones.

Same with missiles. Why did the US suddenly turn their carriers around and out of the Persian Gulf at the moment the Iranian had modern anti-ship missiles?
Sure, the carriers needed to be refuelled at home. ;-)

RE: Carriers Are Obsolete!!!
By Chernobyl68 on 5/16/2013 5:42:27 PM , Rating: 2
unmanned planes from some land base is not power projection. They have no sustainable presence in theater as they are dependent on refueling aircraft and have to circle back to their origin to re-arm. They cannot maintain the operational tempo of a carrier because of the long cycle time back to base.

Refueling aircraft are vulnerable. The base the unmanned planes are controlled from are vulnerable. Heck, even the satellites they may use for communications are vulnerable if it comes that far.

While carriers may not be as fast as planes, they are the fastest ships in the fleet. They can outrace any escorts at top speed across the entire ocean if they need to. If they need to be somewhere quick, they can get there.

Carriers supply fuel to other ships in the fleet. They can act as supply points for humanitarian missions. And in a pinch, can supply electricity to shore facilities in times of infrastructure crisis. I don't understand how you believe they are too inflexible in terms of aircraft they can carry - they're a blank slate - the aircraft in a carrier wing can be of any makeup desired - fighters, bombers, surveillance, ASW, ECM, cargo, SAR, whatever the missions require.

The Air Force requires local air bases to maintain presence. Those must be negotiated with host countries - the Navy brings its air bases with them. No negotiation needed. That's Power Projection.

RE: Carriers Are Obsolete!!!
By gwem557 on 5/16/2013 6:26:16 PM , Rating: 4
Phew. I don't even know where to start with this, it's so short-sighted and, frankly, demonstrates a level of ignorance that's usually reserved for Apple Fanbois. Let me just address a few key points:

1. Carriers are the fastest ship in the navy. Their PUBLICLY stated speed is 30-some-odd knots, but in fact, they can easily hit 50. The truth is that they're limited ONLY by the stresses that the shafts and screws can take, since they have (theoretically) unlimited power available. Carriers have to REDUCE their speed to stay with their battle groups.

2. Too vulnerable. Oh, boy. This one has me rolling on the ground. You obviously have NO IDEA how much offensive and defensive fire power is arrayed around a carrier. Do you know WHY there are no longer battleships? It's simple: today's destroyers and frigates CARRY MORE DESTRUCTIVE ENERGY than those venerable behemoths ever did. And they do it smaller, faster, cheaper. Submarines. Air combat patrols. The 90 or so aircraft. Antimissle defenses. Aegis. Full battlesphere control for HUNDREDS of miles. I could go on and on but the point is simply this: No. They're not vulnerable AT ALL.

3. Too inflexible? What the hell? They carry 90 some-odd aircraft that fill every air combat role known to man, and they can mix and match as desired. What the hell are you talking about?

4. Too many support ships? Carriers don't have their OWN support ships. Support ships that service carriers also service other fleet units -- service that would be required even without the carrier present.

The sad thing is is that you do make SOME valid points: They are expensive and complex, and they take a lot of manpower. And hell, I'll even allow that your vision of what SHOULD be MIGHT have some merit within the next 2 centuries. But then you obliterate your good points by spouting the bad ones like their facts, which goes to your credibility.

RE: Carriers Are Obsolete!!!
By CubicleDilbert on 5/20/2013 5:14:32 PM , Rating: 2
But are you aware that in most NATO exercises the carriers are lost to German Uboats?

2001 USS Enterprise lost in the Carribean
1989 USS Forrestal lost (I think it as the North Sea)
same in the Mediterranean manouvers.

You can not protect a carrier in shallow water. That's why they pulled the carriers from the Persian Gulf.

And the Chinese Uboats are not bad either. They once penetrated a US Carrier group withouth problems.

RE: Carriers Are Obsolete!!!
By JKflipflop98 on 5/16/2013 9:21:07 PM , Rating: 2
Aircraft carriers are anything but slow. They can pull over 60 knots. That's haulin ass for any watercraft, much less one the size of a small city.

RE: Carriers Are Obsolete!!!
By MTEK on 5/17/2013 11:15:40 AM , Rating: 2
Well, there's nothing obsolete about good ole psychology and the reminder of what 4.5 acres of U.S. sovereign muscle can mean to a troubled region.

"When an individual makes a copy of a song for himself, I suppose we can say he stole a song." -- Sony BMG attorney Jennifer Pariser
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