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,
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.