Unmanned Combat Aircraft Launches from Carrier

Commander calls it historic milestone.

Unmanned Combat Aircraft Launches from Carrier
Unmanned Combat Aircraft Launches from Carrier

In what Vice Admiral David Buss, Commander, Naval Air Forces called a “watershed event,” the U.S. Air Force X-47B unmanned combat air system (UCAS) demonstrator was catapulted for the first time from the USS George H.W. Bush aircraft carrier off the coast of Virginia this week. After a 65-minute flight, which included several low approaches to the carrier, the X-47B landed at the Naval Air Station Patuxent River in Maryland.

“Today we saw a small but significant pixel in the future picture of our Navy as we begin integration of unmanned systems into arguably the most complex warfighting environment that exists today; the flight deck of a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier,” Boss said.

In addition to being the first launch from a carrier, a significant aspect of the mission was the requirement to transfer control of the UCAS from a “mission operator” aboard the carrier to one located at the Mission Test Control Center in Patuxent River. The transfer was completed “without degradation in safety or precision,” said Matt Funk, lead test engineer for the Navy UCAS program.

Several additional test flights, which will include approaches to the carrier and additional shore-based testing, will be conducted prior to the first attempt at an arrested landing of the X-47B on the flight deck of the carrier later this summer.