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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: Nice
By stromgald on 8/6/2007 6:22:49 PM , Rating: 2
You do realize that the percentage that the US government has spent on the military has overall decreased steadily since WWII? The total dollar value might be increasing slowly, but the percentage has dropped significantly. It was close to 40% during World War II, small peak at 9.4% during Vietnam, and is now at 3.7%. Much more than 3.7% are being spent on medicare and social security.

$600 million sounds like alot, until you put it in the context of a $2.4 trillion budget. Learn to put your statistics in perspective instead of spouting FUD.

RE: Nice
By GeeSussFreeK on 8/7/2007 9:40:24 AM , Rating: 2
I don't think you are looking at apples to apples with that kind of comparison. The budget has become much more social welfare programs in it with inflate the budget drastically. Just because defense is a lower percentage of the budget then ever before doesn't mean that it isn't still very costly.

RE: Nice
By GeeSussFreeK on 8/7/2007 9:47:29 AM , Rating: 2
sorry for the bad grammar, that is supposed to read "The budget has become more inflated with social welfare programs" But I think you can get the basic idea of what I said.

Wasn't the first appropriation on the order of magnitude of 400 billion dollars? Not the actual fighting, the reconstruction. That is a huge chuck of change that doesn't seem to be polled into the cost of war but the calculator monkeys.

RE: Nice
By stromgald on 8/7/2007 11:48:54 AM , Rating: 2
Good point. A significant amount of money spent in Iraq might not be represented in the actual 'defense' category of the budget. However, it's pretty hard to tell how much is accounted for elsewhere. Stupid accountants :-P.

I'm not saying whether or not we should be spending more or less on Iraq. I'm just objecting to the arguments that 1) the US is spending too much on the military and not enough on health and welfare based on a $636 million expenditure, and 2) the "high" military spending is motivated by a select few. That $6.36 million is less than 0.03% of the national budget. I don't think the US people have a problem with the government spending 5% of the budget on military/defense.

RE: Nice
By GeeSussFreeK on 8/7/2007 10:18:04 AM , Rating: 2
After doing some digging around, I think to this point, congress has funded 315 billion dollars in total appropriations. That is pretty huge relative to the budget at large, and even without looking at our huge budget, it is a lot of money.

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