Aerial Refueling, X-47B’s Final First

The Navy’s X-47B demonstrator completed the first independent, remotely piloted aircraft aerial refueling during a flight from NAS Patuxent River, Md., this week, Northrop Grumman announced. “Testing with the X-47B helps solidify the concept that future unmanned aircraft can perform standard missions like aerial refueling and operate seamlessly with manned aircraft,” program manager Navy Capt. Beau Duarte said in the relea?se. The tanker trial concluded the service’s Unmanned Combat Air System program to mature technology and concepts for integrating unmanned aircraft into a carrier air wing, according to Naval Air Systems Command’s release. The two demonstrator? aircraft achieved several milestones over the course of the four-and-a-half year test program, including the first autonomous catapult launch and arrested-carrier landing from the USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77) in 2013. The Navy is looking to field a separate, operational follow-on under its Unmanned Carrier Launched Airborne Surveillance and Strike program. The X-47B successfully refueled from a contract K-707 tanker over the Chesapeake Bay, April 22.