Navy Preps For X-47B Cats, Traps On Carrier
By Amy Butler, Graham Warwick
Source: Aviation Week & Space Technology
Arrested landing trials are slated to start early next year.
Testing with AV-1 will continue to expand the envelope in preparation for catapult launches and arrested landings on a carrier deck planned next summer. Navy officials have not yet identified which carrier will host the demonstrations. Carrier availability and budget reduction talks in Washington could jeopardize the schedule. Engdahl says the Navy is outfitting all of its East Coast-based Nimitz-class carriers to at least temporarily handle the aircraft. Originally, the Navy had planned to begin trials on a carrier in fiscal 2011, but that schedule slipped because extra time was needed for Northrop to develop the information interface between the aircraft and the ship.
Meanwhile, operators on the USS Harry S. Truman are executing deck-handling trails with AV-2 while in port. The aircraft has executed engine runs, telemetry and communications checks and been moved around the deck, on the elevators and in the hangar bay, says Don Blottenberger, Navy deputy program manager. Eventually, testers will taxi the aircraft into position on the ship's catapult, but there are “many steps before we are ready” to go to a catapult on a sea-based carrier, Engdahl says.
Once the Truman is underway, operators plan to maneuver AV-2 on the deck and in the hangar bay using a wireless control display unit.
“The most interesting challenge is the integration of these technologies onto the aircraft carrier and into the manned paradigms of flight” for the carrier air wing. Operators want interactions with the X-47B to duplicate those for manned aircraft, so as to maintain the cadence of operations on the deck.
Depending on progress in the testing program, program officials have reserved the option of flying AV-1 into the Truman's airspace—once the carrier is underway—to demonstrate a mission control element, navigation systems and data links needed for connectivity between the two.