The Navy’s UCAS

Northrop Grumman rolled out the first of the Navy’s unmanned combat aircraft system vehicles at a Dec. 16 ceremony at one of its production facilities in Palmdale, Calif. In a company statement, Scott Winship, Northrop VP and UCAS program manager, described the X-47B aircraft as a “sea change in military aviation.” It took just over a year for the Northrop team to assemble the aircraft after receiving the demonstration program contract in August 2007. Navy Capt. Martin Deppe, the service’s UCAS program manager, called the X-47B “a necessary first step” that would lead to the introduction of “a new long-range, persistent, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR)-strike capability” for the carriers of tomorrow. Following subsystem and structural testing, Northrop expects the X-47B to fly for the first time next fall, with sea trials slated to begin in late 2011. The company already is performing initial assembly for a second X-47B that it expects to complete next year. The program started out as a joint effort between the Navy and Air Force, but the last Quadrennial Defense Review ceded the J-UCAS to the Navy alone.