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New tests ahead for X-47B unmanned combat air vehicle

Northrop Grumman's X-47B unmanned combat air vehicle is undergoing shore-based testing prior to its embarkation on an aircraft carrier this summer, the U.S. Navy has announced.
By Richard Tomkins   |   May 2, 2014 at 11:27 AM   |   Comments

PATUXENT RIVER, Md., May 2 (UPI) -- Northrop Grumman’s X-47B unmanned combat air system is to undergo ramped-up testing in preparation for new sea trials, the U.S. Navy reports.

The X-47B is an unmanned aerial vehicle, which will enter service with the Navy in 2020, is the size of a normal combat jet and is designed for launch and recovery from an aircraft carrier.

The U.S. Naval Air Systems Command said the latest series of shore-based tests will be conducted from its Patuxent River facility in Maryland and are aimed at maturing air traffic control and ground support standard operating procedures for “co-use of airspace between unmanned and manned aircraft during day and nighttime operations.”

“Continuing to fly the X-47B in the Patuxent River air space will further exercise the research, test, development and evaluation infrastructure with an unmanned air system,” said Capt. Beau Duarte, program manager for Unmanned Carrier Aviation at Patuxent River. “These tests are a build-up for the next carrier event this summer.”

The X-47B, as in the past, will again embark on USS Theodore Roosevelt sometime in August. The sea-based testing will be to perfect flight deck operations for the aircraft and for integrating the platform with manned aircraft.

“We are working toward a new set of firsts for the X-47B,” said Matt Funk, X-47B lead test engineer. “We’ll test the new capabilities of the X-47B wing-fold and tailhook retract system, and will demonstrate compatibility with a carrier jet-blast deflector on the flight deck for the first time.”

Added Capt. Duarte: “This at-sea period will mark the first time manned aircraft and the X-47B will operate together on the flight deck.”

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