Northrop Grumman’s X-47B unmanned combat air system (UCAS-D) demonstrator successfully completed its long-delayed first flight at Edwards AFB, Calif., late today. The stealthy, single-engine UCAS took off early in the afternoon Pacific time and landed some 29 mins later, having achieved an altitude of 5,000-ft. Aimed at gathering air vehicle management system data, the first flight also marks the start of a roughly 50-flight, year-long Block 1 envelope expansion test campaign at Edwards AFB. Initial flight rate is expected to be once per week, rising to twice a week later in 2011.
Northrop and U.S. Navy officials passed the tailless, flying wing demonstrator for taxi tests at a flight readiness review in early November.
The Feb 4 flight was carried out with the landing gear down, and the vehicle flying a racetrack pattern over the dry lakebed with standard-rate turns. The landing was made back on the same runway used for take-off.
Later in the year AV-1 will be transferred to the Navy’s test center at NAS Patuxent River, Md, and eventually hoisted onboard an aircraft carrier. The UCAS will then be maneuvered around the vessel as part of the program’s Block 2 carrier deck operations and handling trials test plan.