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US Navy's X-47B UCAS attains first cruise flight


The X-47B Unmanned Combat Air System flew with its landing gear up for the first time on Sept. 7 during a test flight at Edwards AFB, California. Photo: Northrop Grumman.

EDWARDS AIR FORCE BASE, CALIFORNIA (BNS): The US Navy's X-47B Unmanned Combat Air System (UCAS) Demonstration aircraft recently reached a major milestone when it retracted its landing gear and flew in its cruise configuration for the first time.

Developed by Northrop Grumman, the X-47B is a tailless, strike fighter-sized unmanned aircraft designed to take off from and land on moving aircraft carriers at sea.

The flight, conducted at Edwards Air Force Base, also helped validate precision navigation hardware and software that will allow the X-47B to land with precision on the moving deck of an aircraft carrier.

"Reaching this critical test point demonstrates the growing maturity of the air system, and its readiness to move to the next phase of flight testing," Janis Pamiljans, vice president and Navy UCAS program manager for Northrop Grumman's Aerospace Systems sector, was quoted as saying in the company news release.

The recent flight was part of an on-going "envelope expansion" programme for the first of two X-47B aircraft produced by Northrop Grumman for the Navy's Unmanned Combat Air System Carrier Demonstration (UCAS-D) programme.

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