A robotic, bat-winged jet resembling a miniature B-2 stealth bomber achieved successful first flight on Monday at Edwards Air Force Base in California.
"Today we got a glimpse towards the future as the Navy's first-ever tailless, jet-powered unmanned aircraft took to the skies," remarked Capt. Jaime Engdahl, Program Manager for the Unmanned Combat Air System Demonstration, after observing the X-47B maiden flight at EAFB.
A dedicated Navy and Northrop Grumman team operated the X-47B UCAS-D from a ground control station at Edwards. The 29-minute flight was conducted at 5,000 ft. with landing gear down; the vehicle flew a racetrack pattern over the dry lakebed with standard-rate turns.
The X-47B jet, which looks like a smaller version of the B-2 stealth bomber, stayed in the air for 29 minutes and climbed to 5,000 feet in a test flight on Friday at Edwards Air Force Base and was operated by a dedicated Navy and Northrop Grumman team from a ground control station, the US Navy said in a statement.
The X-47B's initial flight marks the start of a year-long, approximately 50-flight, envelope expansion test program at Edwards. The first of two aircraft will complete its initial testing in late 2011 and the second aircraft will begin testing shortly thereafter. After completion of initial airworthiness testing in California, each aircraft will be transported to Patuxent River Naval Air Station, Md. for the remainder of the carrier demonstration program.
"We are breaking new ground by developing the first unmanned jet aircraft to take off and land aboard a flight deck," said Rear Adm. Bill Shannon, Program Executive Officer for Unmanned Aviation and Strike Weapons. "This demonstration program is intended to reduce risk for potential future unmanned systems operating in and around aircraft carriers."
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