The X-47B Drone Ushered In A Brave, Scary New World [PHOTOS]

X 47B Carrier Takeoff and Landing May 2013

The Navy’s X-47B autonomous drone reached a major milestone in 2011, and then last week when it took off and landed from a U.S. aircraft carrier.

It’s impossible to overestimate the impact this aircraft will have on drone use, its ethics, and the future of manned fighters.

But what is the X-47B and why is it so earth-shattering? Here’s a rundown on the bird and some shots of its ground-breaking achievement.

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 mission operator monitors the X-47B air vehicle's operation ...

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.

The drone's first land-based catapult launch was conducted successfully on 29 November, 2012.

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 18 December, 2012, the X-47B completed its first at-sea test phase.

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.

The project was initially funded under a US$635.8-million contract awarded by the Navy in 2007.

However, by January 2012, the X-47B's total program cost had grown to an estimated $813 million.

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.

Armament: Two weapon bays for up to 4,500 lbs of ordnance.

With internal weapons bays.

The ability to re-fuel.

And to act without controller input.

These features make the X-47 class of drones something unlike the world has ever seen.

But that's about to change, and we'll see many, many more of them in the few short years ahead.

That's what the X-47 is all about ...

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