X-47B Makes First Flight

Northrop Grumman’s X-47B naval unmanned combat demonstrator aircraft last week flew for the first time, completing a 29-minute mission at Edwards AFB, Calif. “First flight represents the compilation of numerous tests to validate the airworthiness of the aircraft, and the robustness and reliability of the software,” said Capt. Jaime Engdahl, the Navy’s program manager, in Northrop’s release. The company leads an industry team developing the X-47B, dubbed UCAS-D, for the Navy under a six-year contract signed in 2007. The goal is to demonstrate that the tailless fighter-sized aircraft can safely take off from and land on an aircraft carrier deck. Carrier trials are scheduled in 2013. The X-47B climbed to an altitude of 5,000 feet and flew several racetrack-type patterns before safely landing during the Feb. 4 flight test. It will remain at Edwards for flight-envelope expansion before transitioning to NAS Patuxent River, Md., later this year. (Northrop has made first-flight video available at this webpage)