First-Ever Carrier Landing with Unmanned Autonomous Aircraft

The Northrop Grumman-built X-47B Unmanned Combat Air System demonstrator aircraft on Wednesday completed its first carrier-based arrested landing on the USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77) off the coast of Virginia, announced the Navy. This marked “the first time a tailless, unmanned autonomous aircraft landed on a modern aircraft carrier,” states the sea service’s July 10 release. “Naval aviators have always been at the forefront of operational and tactical innovation, and today was no exception,” said Navy Secretary Ray Mabus. The X-47B completed a 35-minute transit from NAS Patuxent River, Md., to the carrier that was under way and then executed the landing, states the release. Sailors then launched the X-47B using the carrier’s catapult. “Today’s historic carrier landing and our operations aboard USS George H.W. Bush show, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that tailless unmanned aircraft can integrate seamlessly and operate safely from an aircraft carrier at sea,” said Capt. Jaime Engdahl, the Navy’s UCAS program manager. The X-47B began sea trials in May. (See also Northrop Grumman release.)