The Navy's Modified X-47B Drone Makes China's 'Carrier-Killing' Missile Obsolete

Photo: US Navy

The X-47B, unmanned carrier drone, is loaded aboard the aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman and being prepped for its at sea trials.One of two X-47B prototypes took its first recorded flight in September (video below) when the Navy announced it would be adding refueling capabilities to the aircraft by 2014.

David Ax, at Wired, reported then that the move will allow the X-47B to remain in flight well beyond 3,000 nautical miles — 10 times the ability of a traditional manned fighter.

This will also put U.S. aircraft carriers outside the reach of, say, China’s ‘carrier-killing’ ballistic missiles and submarines.

The X-47B’s manufacturer, Northrop Grumman also received contracts to modify long-range Global Hawks to serve as refueling tankers. When those aircraft come online, the entire process will be conducted with no pilot at all.

In the meantime, aboard the Truman tests will begin to adapt the craft to seagoing flight.

From defence News:

TRUMAN was fitted during a recent overhaul with gear and software to operate the X-47B, the first jet unmanned strike aircraft designed for carrier operation. Extensive carrier deck handling tests will be run before flying operations take place later this winter.

The carrier will undertake three weeks of tests with the X-47B, both in port at Norfolk and underway along the Atlantic coast. Engineers and sailors will use a hand-held control display unit to control the aircraft moving along the carrier’s deck.

TRUMAN is scheduled to deploy to the U.S. Central Command region early in 2013.

Video of the X-47B in flight is below these photos of the X-47B getting hoisted above the Truman.

Photo: US Navy

Photo: US Navy

Photo: US Navy

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