PATUXENT RIVER, Md., July 23 (UPI) -- The U.S. Navy says it expects to land the first X-47B autonomous unmanned aerial vehicle aboard an aircraft carrier in about a year.
The estimate follows a new round of surrogate testing of X-47B software aboard USS Harry S. Truman to validate the concept of autonomous UAV operations around an aircraft carrier.
"Demonstrating our concept of operations and making sure the carrier segment is performing as advertised is a huge milestone for the program," said Capt. Jaime Engdahl, Navy UCAS program manager. "The crew, equipment, and program team performed exceptionally well during all planned test events and the Harry S. Truman is ready for our next phase of X-47B testing."
Added Cmdr. Jeff Dodge, Navy UCAS carrier integration team co-lead: "The new software used during these tests is more comprehensive than earlier versions. There have been significant changes made to the user interface and navigation systems.
"Data compiled during surrogate flights allow us to determine the effectiveness of the new software and how it supports the carrier environment."
The Northrop Grumman X-47B will be 38 feet long and have a range of more than 2,000 nautical miles. In addition to intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance packages, the aircraft will feature weapons bays capable of carrying as much as 4,500 pounds of ordnance.
The Navy said that this year it will conduct carrier suitability and system performance testing. Tests will include arrested landings, catapult launches and flight deck operations at a land facility in Maryland.