ABOARD THE USS THEODORE ROOSEVELT — The U.S. Navy showcased what one senior officer said was the “sausage being made during test and evaluation” this past weekend as one of its Unmanned Combat Air System (UCAS) Demonstrators experienced an anomaly during a media tour aboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt.
The anomaly was resolved quickly with a 90-min. reboot of the Northrop Grumman-built air vehicle, after which operators conducted a catapult launch and wave-off procedure before an arrested landing back on deck.
The service is two days into an “at-sea” period for a newly approved round of carrier trials designed to test the single-engine, stealthy X-47B’s performance in off-nominal conditions, such as high winds or off-axis winds over the carrier deck. Ultimately, officials are looking to evaluate performance at winds of 28-36 kt.
Though tail number 502 eventually flew, its first attempt was perturbed by a wireless communication problem between the on-deck controller’s arm-mounted CDU and the air vehicle. The aircraft taxied to the catapult as planned, based on commands by the controller, but operators were unable to command it to exceed flight idle power, which is required for takeoff. The crew switched out arm-mounted controllers to a backup and switched out the power supply on one, but they were still unable on the first attempt to suitably control the aircraft.
This prompted operators to surmise the fault was within the air vehicle itself, says Capt. Beau Duarte, UCAS program manager, who spoke to reporters in the hangar bay of the ship following the anomaly.
Operators had not encountered this problem before on previous detachments, Duarte said.
After resetting the aircraft, however, it performed as expected.
This aircraft flew aboard on Nov. 9 to begin its 11-day window for testing roughly 110 mi. off the coast of Virginia’s Wallops Island. On Nov. 10 it conducted two arrested landings, two wave-offs and six touch-and-gos on deck, says Rear Adm. Mat Winter, Navy program executive officer for unmanned aviation and strike weapons.