The X-47B unmanned combat air system, with Northrop Grumman as prime contractor, is to be used from aircraft carriers. Recent testing validated flight control and vision systems the aircraft will use in aerial refueling.
"These tests are a critical step toward proving that the X-47B can perform autonomous aerial refueling using either the Navy's probe-and-drogue refueling technique or the U.S. Air Force's boom/receptacle approach," said Carl Johnson, vice president and UCAS-D program manager for Northrop Grumman's Aerospace Systems sector.
"Future unmanned systems will need to use both refueling techniques if they plan to conduct longer range surveillance or strike missions from the carrier."
Northrop said the tests were performed in St. Augustine, Fla. While the specially equipped variable stability Lear jet was used as a stand-in for the X-47B demonstrator aircraft, a K707 tanker with a Navy refueling drogue was used to simulate the fuel transfer procedure.
The X-47B is a tailless unmanned combat aircraft with low-visibility. Its ability to be launched from a carrier, as well as its recovery, will be demonstrated next year.