US Navy launches first X-47B from carrier

The X-47B Unmanned Combat Air System demonstrator (UCAS-D) completed its first ever carrier-based catapult launch from USS George H.W. Bush off the coast of Virginia on May 14.

The launch of the X-47B Unmanned Combat Air System demonstrator is the first-ever launch of an unmanned aircraft from a modern aircraft carrier.

The aircraft performed several approaches to the carrier before landing at the Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Maryland, after a 65-minute flight.

Completing another important first for the UCAS-D program, the team demonstrated the ability to precisely navigate the X-47B within the controlled airspace around an aircraft carrier at sea and seamlessly pass control of the air vehicle from a “mission operator” aboard the carrier to one located in the Mission Test Control Center at NAS Patuxent River for landing.

Prior to the catapult launch, the test team also conducted deck-handling and ship-integration testing to demonstrate the capability to safely operate the X-47B in the environment of an aircraft carrier flight deck.

Over the next few weeks, the X-47B aircraft will fly approaches to the ship multiple times and eventually land on the flight deck.

The UCAS team will conduct additional shore-based testing with the X-47B at NAS Patuxent River in the coming months before its final carrier-based arrested landing demonstration later this summer.

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