The future of carrier-based warfare quietly took to the skies over the weekend as the U.S. Navy successfully conducted the first-ever flight of its vaunted X-47B unmanned aircraft at Edwards AFB. The tailless, fighter-sized drone aircraft, designed by Northrop Grumman for carrier-based takeoffs and landings, spent half an hour in the air late Friday executing basic navigation maneuvers and otherwise proving that its design is airworthy and ready for further development.
The flight took off just after 2 p.m. local time and lasted just 29 minutes, reaching an altitude of only 5,000 feet. But for designers at Northrop Grumman and the Navy, it marks an important milestone for unmanned flight. The X-47B is the precursor to what the Navy hopes will be a fleet of unmanned, combat-capable aircraft that can launch from the deck of an aircraft carrier to carry out a range of missions.
That, of course, is a big deal not just for the Navy but for the future of robotic aerial warfare, which thus far has been restricted to land-launched drones like the Predators and Reapers operating in Afghanistan and Iraq. The X-47B is different. Designed as a robotic strike aircraft, it is jet powered (Predators and Reapers are prop-powered) and will fly at much higher speeds than its surveillance-oriented counterparts. It is also designed for stealth, sporting a tailless design that cuts down on aerodynamic noise and a sleek, flying-wing design reminiscent of the F-117 Nighthawk.
It's worth noting that the X-47B is different from the secret "Beast of Kandahar" stealth drone that keeps popping up in Afghanistan—they're easy to confuse due to a likeness in appearance. Little is known about the RQ-170 Sentinel, but we do know that it has taken to the skies before. The X-47B is just now getting wind beneath its wings, with initial carrier trials slated for sometime in 2013.
if you have quite a lot of speed, the tail-fins are really only redundant, as the wings will keep it stabilized, if it's built correctly.
I think your mistaken about the analogy. You stated "sporting a tailless design that cuts down on aerodynamic noise and a sleek, flying-wing design reminiscent of the F-117 Nighthawk." has a "V" tail. Maybe you meant the B2 bomber.
yes, they meant the B2 Bomber, as meantioned in a yahoo news article, it definatley does not resemble an F-117
The techology has been there for years, even for commercial purposes. Would you fly in a pilotless 747 or B320?
This is a very scary machine...
This is another example of how our lack of military integration leads to needless duplication of technology. There is no reason for each military branch to develop, train, and impliment the same tech.
Smaller, smarter warfare demands the consolidation of military forces. The redundancy of navy pilots, army pilots, and air force pilots if a fine example of using tax payer money to maintain at least five seperate military organizations.
Oakspar77777 - Dude you sound like a Republican. Who cares how we spend the money if its spent on American companies that employ Americans. Lets talk about science and live the politics on a .gov website. Sorry no offense.
The articles is about a beautiful beast that does not resemble an F-117 Clay. Come on now, Popsci guys know their planes. This plane does look more tested then the Beast of Kandahar aka RQ170.
The prototype does not seem to allow for many weapons on board making it vulnerable to better armed manned fighter jets such as the F-35. This means it probably will not be an effective strike aircraft. Making this a long range bomber is probably a better investment.
@lucastimothywong What you say may be true to a point, but if you were in a fighter jet with superior firepower going up against an unmanned fighter you would also need to realize that it wont black out so it can make maneuvers you cant and it can also suicide to take you out. Those two things alone make it a very scary weapon. Also this type of UAV would be a nice counter against other types of enemy UAV's like the predator.
Personally I think that technology that allows us to control our skies without risking human life is a good thing. Hell just think of all the lives that are lost in accidents alone!
There was an article that DARPA created a strategy sub game, maybe they could create one for this bad boy:)
Thanks for reading
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