PATUXENT RIVER, Md., 1 Dec. 2012. The X-47B drone has completed its first catapult launch. The test was conducted by Northrop Grumman (NYSE:NOC) and the U.S. Navy.
The test was conducted at a shore-based catapult facility at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Md. It marks the first of several shore-based catapult-to-flight tests that will be performed before the Navy's UCAS Carrier Demonstration (UCAS-D) program catapult launches the X-47B from a ship.
Following the catapult launch, the X-47B conducted a test flight over Chesapeake Bay near Patuxent River. The flight included several maneuvers designed to simulate tasks that the aircraft will have to perform when it lands on a ship, including flying in a typical ship holding pattern, and executing a carrier approach flight profile. The flight also allowed the test team to gather navigation data associated with each of those maneuvers.
The launch also provided the X-47B to demonstrate the precision operation of the Northrop Grumman-developed Control Display Unit (CDU). The CDU is a wireless, arm-mounted controller that will allow a flight deck operator to control and maneuver the X-47B on the flight deck, including moving it into the catapult, disengaging it from the carrier's arresting wires and moving it quickly out of the landing area.
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Over the next few weeks, the UCAS-D program plans to conduct several shore-based catapults at Patuxent River. On Nov. 26, an X-47B was hoisted aboard the USS Harry S. Truman (CVN-75) at Naval Air Station, Norfolk, Va. to begin a series of deck handling trials. The trials, expected to run through mid December, will be used to evaluate the performance of the CDU in an actual carrier environment.
In 2013, the program plans to demonstrate the ability of an X-47B to operate from a Navy aircraft carrier, including launch, recovery and air traffic control operations. The program will also mature technologies required for potential future Navy unmanned air vehicle (UAV) programs.
Northrop Grumman's UCAS-D industry team includes Pratt & Whitney, Lockheed Martin, GKN Aerospace, Eaton, General Electric, UTC Aerospace Systems, Dell, Honeywell, Moog, Wind River, Parker Aerospace and Rockwell Collins.