Navy, Northrop catapult launch X-47B

Nov. 30, 2012 at 6:42 AM

PATUXENT RIVER, Md., Nov. 30 (UPI) -- The U.S. Navy and Northrop Grumman have successfully conducted the first land-based catapult launch of the X-47B UCAS.

The unmanned combat air system demonstrator showed its capability of handling the structural stress of being operated from an aircraft carrier.

The test was conducted at the Naval Air Systems Command at Patuxent River, Md. Launch from a carrier is expected next year.

"Carrier-based unmanned aircraft will change the concept of operations for the carrier-controlled airspace," said Navy Rear Adm. Mat Winter, the program executive officer for Unmanned Aviation and Strike Weapons.

"The N-UCAS program's goal is to demonstrate integration of an unmanned aircraft into a carrier environment and reduce technical risk associated with developing potential future unmanned, carrier-compatible systems."

The X-47B is 38.2 feet long, 10.4 feet high and has an extended wing span of 61.2 feet. It features two weapons bays and can carry more than 4,000 pounds of ordnance.

The Navy and Northrop Grumman team will continue ground-based catapult verification and final flight software validation prior to sea trials.

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