It’s impossible to overestimate the impact this aircraft will have on drone use, its ethics, and the future of manned fighters.
X-47B is a computer-controlled drone that takes off, flies a pre-programmed mission, then returns to base. All in response to mouse clicks from its mission operator.
The X-47B has a maximum un-refueled range of over 2,100 nautical miles (3,900 km), and an endurance of more than six hours.
But will be used to demonstrate carrier launches and recoveries, as well as autonomous in-flight refueling using the probe-and-drogue system.
In November 2011, the Navy announced that aerial refueling equipment and software would be added to one of the prototype aircraft in 2014 for testing.
In May 2012, AV-1 began high-intensity electromagnetic interference testing at Patuxent River, to test its compatibility with planned electronic warfare systems.
On 26 November, 2012, the X-47B began its carrier-based evaluation aboard the USS Harry S Truman (CVN-75) at Naval Station Norfolk, Virginia.
On May 4, 2013, the demonstrator successfully performed an arrested landing on a simulated carrier deck at NAS Patuxent River.
The Navy launched the X-47B from the USS George H.W. Bush (CVN-77) on the morning of 14 May, 2013 in the Atlantic Ocean — the first time that an unmanned drone has been catapulted off an aircraft carrier.
On 17 May, 2013, another first was achieved when the X-47B performed touch-and-go landings and take-offs on the flight deck of the USS George H.W. Bush while underway in the Atlantic Ocean.
Shown here: The X-47A Original proof-of-concept prototype with a 19-foot (5.9 m) wingspan, first flown in 2003.
This is the X-47B Current demonstrator aircraft with a 62-foot (19 m) wingspan, first flown in 2011.
X-47C Proposed a larger version with a payload of 10,000 lb (4,500 kg) and a wingspan of 172 ft (52.4 m).
Crew: None — Length: 38.2 ft — Wingspan: 62.1 ft — Height: 10.4 ft — Empty weight: 14,000 lb — Max. takeoff weight: 44,567 lb —Powerplant: 1 × Pratt & Whitney F100-220U turbofan.
Subsonic Cruise speed: Mach 0.9+ (high subsonic) — Range: 2,100+ Miles — Service ceiling: 40,000 ft.
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