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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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Not a fair fight...
By jmunjr on 8/6/2007 4:47:59 PM , Rating: 2
I can't help but feel that any unmanned offensive weapon such as tanks, jets, etc is just not right. If we want to fight with someone we should be willing to accept the consequence of death in doing so.

Let's ask this question. Would Vietnam or the current Iraq situation be as controversial an issue if there were practically zero deaths due to the complete use of unmanned weapons?

These kinds of weapons will make it much easier for us to go to incite conflict and increasingly avoid diplomacy..

I guess we don't have much of a choice. Either we do it or someone else will, but it just seems cowardly to get in a fight with someone when you know there isn't a chance of anyone dying..

RE: Not a fair fight...
By Ringold on 8/6/2007 5:40:53 PM , Rating: 3
I dont understand the constant belief that these advances inevitably lead us to "incite conflict" and "increasingly avoid diplomacy".

Lets twist that Vietnam thing around, since you brought it up.

Let us suppose that we did indeed have drone armies to send to Vietnam, and the human death toll was minimal on our side. How is this bad? We could've marched them ahead without pause, annihilating the communists while the war was still young, and secured if not democracy then at least free market capitalism! Instead of living in poverty today Vietnam would be a bustling hub of economic prosperity, just as it is in places where such freedom was won in South Korea, Taiwan, and Japan.

All with fewer casualties, and a psychological blow to the communist powers that could've hastened the collapse of the Cold War rather then the encouraging defeat of America, sole defender of the free world.

Please, do say how that'd of been a bad thing, or how the ability to pull that off in some future time period would be bad, given that 9 times out of 10 that's precisely the type of war we're involved in, one where we're holding the line against perceived evil.

RE: Not a fair fight...
By SirLucius on 8/6/2007 5:54:00 PM , Rating: 2
Why is it that people fail to understand that these cost a crap-load of money to produce, and will for some time, unless America becomes a completely militaristic country and devotes the majority of resources to weapons development? There aren't going to be stockpiles of these things being prepped to go blow some poor country off the planet. So I don't see how there will be more incentive to go to war when there will be a limited number of extremely expensive machines available for use for the next XX years. And by the time unmanned machines are being mass produced, I'm sure other major powers won't be too far behind. You can't ignore economics when waging war. If you do, you've lost before you even got started.

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