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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 Master Kenobi on 8/6/2007 11:44:05 AM , Rating: 2
The electronics packages are housed there, its the best place to put them and makes design easier as they already know the flight dynamics of a fuselage with a cockpit.

RE: Love em
By helios220 on 8/6/2007 11:53:21 AM , Rating: 3
One question I have.......if these are unmanned, why does the artist portray them as still having a cockpit-shaped area & windshield (that, even though blacked out, still is a windsheild shaped piece)???? Wouldn't the aircraft be more stealthy without the cockpit bulge??

That is not a blacked out window, that is the air intake for the propulsion system.

The electronics packages are housed there, its the best place to put them and makes design easier as they already know the flight dynamics of a fuselage with a cockpit.

It is true that that the aerodynamic tendencies for traditional manned aircraft are better known and this has some influence over the design, however that characterization is over simplified. Alas, the details are proprietary but not a bad guess.

RE: Love em
By stromgald on 8/6/2007 12:19:28 PM , Rating: 4
Actually, that's not a cockpit area or a windshield. It's an air intake. There are better images on Boeing and Northrop Grumman's website. Most UCAV designs are similar to the B-2's flying wing design for better stealth, so that's what the flight dynamics are probably based on.

Electronics for these things are still generally held in the nose of the aircraft to my knowledge because that's usually the best place to hold radar and avionics. With the engines near the rear, and bombs near the middle, you need something to 'balance' the aircraft. However, I wouldn't be surprised if radio antennas and some other electronics are spread throughout the aircraft.

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