GKN Aerospace partners with U.S. Navy, Northrop Grumman for X-47B first flight

NASHVILLE, Tenn., 7 Feb. 2011. The U.S. Navy/Northrop Grumman UCAS-D X-47B aircraft, an unmanned combat aerial vehicle which began as part of DARPA's J-UCAS program, has completed its maiden flight. The unmanned vehicle incorporates wings and a fuselage structure with integrated electrical routings developed and manufactured by GKN Aerospace.

Posted by Courtney E. Howard
Posted by Courtney E. Howard

NASHVILLE, Tenn., 7 Feb. 2011. The U.S. Navy/Northrop Grumman UCAS-D X-47B aircraft, an unmanned combat aerial vehicle which began as part of DARPA's J-UCAS program, has completed its maiden flight. The unmanned vehicle incorporates wings and a fuselage structure with integrated electrical routings developed and manufactured by GKN Aerospace.

GKN Aerospace’s work was undertaken as part of a multi-year contract to design and manufacture the X-47B centre fuselage and wing components.

“This is an extremely proud day for both the Northrop Grumman and GKN Aerospace teams that have shown total commitment to supporting the development of what is the first unmanned aircraft designed to withstand the forces involved in launch and recovery of the air vehicle from the deck of an aircraft carrier,” explains Kevin Cummings, president and CEO, GKN Aerospace - Aerostructures North America. “We can now see their innovative engineering and manufacturing truly take flight on this transformational Navy program.”

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The X-47B’s complex centre fuselage section has an aluminium and titanium construction, whereas the aircraft’s wings contain an aluminium substructure covered with carbon epoxy skins measuring approximately 16 feet by 4 feet. Each wing supports a spoiler flight control surface and hosts integrated electrical and hydraulic routings.

The wing design includes a fold capability allowing the air vehicle to achieve a smaller footprint for aircraft carrier stowage. GKN Aerospace also manufactures most of the fuselage composite skins and this tailless aircraft’s bay covers and actuated doors.

Wing and fuselage design was completed by the GKN Aerospace Engineering Development Center in Nashville, and manufacture took place at the company’s plant in St. Louis, Mo. In total, more than 650 separate metallic and composite elements per aircraft were manufactured and/or assembled by GKN Aerospace.

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