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Artist rendering of the X-47B in combat  (Source: Northrop Grumman)

  (Source: Northrop Grumman)

  (Source: Northrop Grumman)
Northtrop Grumman and the U.S. Navy will fly the X-47B in late 2009

The U.S. military is furthering its funding of unmanned vehicles for combat. Just last week, DailyTech reported on the U.S. Army's new SWORDS unmanned robots which roam the Iraqi battlefield carrying M249 machines guns -- and in turn put human soldiers out of harm's way. The military's latest unmanned project leaves the desert behind in order to take to the skies.

The U.S. Navy on Friday awarded Northrop Grumman a six-year, $635.8 million USD contract to further develop the X-47B fixed-wing unmanned air system (UAS). The funding for the Unmanned Combat Air System Carrier Demonstration (UCAS-D) program will allow Northrop Grumman to conduct take-offs and landings from the U.S. Navy's nuclear-powered aircraft carriers.

"We are proud of our legacy of innovation and creativity in developing new combat capabilities and are pleased to be selected to lead this revolutionary advancement in unmanned systems capabilities," said Northrop Grumman's Scott Seymour.

"The UCAS-D award is the culmination of several years of effort with the Navy to show the benefit of melding the capabilities of a survivable, persistent, long-range UCAS with those of the aircraft carrier," continued Northrop Grumman's Gary Ervin. "The UCAS-D program will reduce the risk of eventual integration of unmanned air systems into carrier environments."

Northrop Grumman will build two X47-B aircraft for the U.S. Navy -- the first of which will take flight during the closing months of 2009. The company expects to begin the first carrier landings in 2011.

The X-47B, a sister-ship to the X-47A, has a cruising altitude of 40,000+ feet and a combat radius of 1,500 nautical miles. The stealthy vehicle can carry an internal payload of 4,500 pounds and can travel at high subsonic speeds.

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RE: Love em
By rtrski on 8/6/2007 11:31:20 AM , Rating: 2
Well, we still need to train operators. But as you say, the force multiplication factor still applies. Presumably with good software a single 'remote pilot' can control an entire small squadron of aircraft on a given mission, assuming limited autonomy for things like collision-avoidance and self-defense (countermeasures) on the part of the aircraft itself.

I just hope the SW gets vetted pretty well. Remember recently some F-22's that were manned and the first ones flying across the international date line all got their power shut down by some sort of time synch related SW bug?

RE: Love em
By kextyn on 8/6/2007 1:20:55 PM , Rating: 3
The glitch wasn't time related. They use zulu time I believe. It was actually the GPS coordinates.

"A group of F-22s heading across the Pacific for exercises in Japan earlier this month suffered simultaneous total nav-console crashes as their longitude shifted from 180 degrees West to 180 East."

RE: Love em
By CSMR on 8/6/2007 2:05:47 PM , Rating: 3
Operators are cheap; planes are expensive. Unless the operators are in the air that is; then they are expensive.

RE: Love em
By bkm32 on 8/16/2007 10:08:45 AM , Rating: 2
The Terminator Trilogy, iRobot, The Matrix Trilogy. Hello!!

When will we learn that the only way to end human losses fighting wars is to STOP FIGHTING WARS! We think we are so clever finding new and interesting ways to kill each other, dont' we?

At any rate, if the apololyptic futures painted in the above movies (excluding iRobot) is any indication, we'll eventually band together to kill machines instead of each other.

I'm a Bible beliver, and as such I don't actually believe in a robot takeover of Mankind. BTW, this last statement is not a "flame".

"It seems as though my state-funded math degree has failed me. Let the lashings commence." -- DailyTech Editor-in-Chief Kristopher Kubicki
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