The Northrop Grumman X-47B is a demonstration Unmanned Combat Aerial Vehicle. The X-47 began as part of DARPA’s J-UCAS program, and is now part of the United States Navy’s UCAS-D (Unmanned Combat Air System Demonstration) program to create a carrier-based unmanned aircraft. Unlike the Boeing X-45, initial X-47A Pegasus development was company-funded. The original vehicle carries the designation X-47A Pegasus, while the follow-on naval version is designated X-47B.
The US Navy did not commit to practical UCAV efforts until mid-2000, when the service awarded contracts of US$2 million each to Boeing and Northrop Grumman for a 15-month concept-exploration program. Design considerations for a naval UCAV included dealing with the corrosive salt-water environment, deck handling for launch and recovery, integration with command and control systems, and operation in a carrier’s high electromagnetic interference environment. The Navy was also interested in using their UCAVs for reconnaissance missions, penetrating protected airspace to identify targets for the attack waves.
The J-UCAS program was terminated in February 2006 following the US military’s Quadrennial Defense Review. The US Air Force and US Navy proceeded with their own UAV programs. The Navy selected Northrop Grumman’s X-47B as its unmanned combat air system demonstrator (UCAS-D) program. The X-47B carries no weapons, but has a full-sized weapons bay. In order to provide realistic testing, the demonstration vehicle is the same size and weight as the projected operational craft.
Roll out of the X-47B was at Air Force Plant 42 in Palmdale, California on December 16, 2008. First flight was planned for November 2009, but was delayed as the project fell behind schedule. On December 29, 2009, Northrop Grumman oversaw towed taxi tests of the aircraft at the Palmdale facility. The aircraft taxied under its own power in January 2010. The first flight of X-47B Air Vehicle 1 (AV-1) took place at Edwards AFB on February 4, 2011.
The X-47B is planned to have a three year test program at Edwards AFB, California and NAS Patuxent River, Maryland, culminating in sea trials in 2013. The aircraft will be used to demonstrate carrier launches and recoveries, as well as autonomous inflight refueling with a probe and drogue. The X-47B has a maximum unrefueled range of over 2,000 miles and an endurance of more than six hours.
Crew: none aboard
Length: 38.2 ft (11.63 m)
Wingspan: 62.1 ft (30.9 ft folded) (18.92 m)
Height: 10.4 ft (3.10 m)
Empty weight: 14,000 lb (6,350 kg)
Max takeoff weight: 44,567 lb (20,215 kg)
Powerplant: 1 x Pratt & Whitney F100-220U turbofan
Maximum speed: subsonic
Cruise speed: 0.45 mach
Range: 2,100+ NM (3,889+ km)
Service ceiling: 40,000 ft (12,190 m)
2 weapon bays (Provisions for 4,500 lb (2,000 kg) of ordnance)
Provisions for EO / IR / SAR / ISAR / GMTI / MMTI / ESM