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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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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.

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