The X-47B unmanned combat air system (UCAS) demonstrator - the US Navy's first tail-less, stealthy unmanned aircraft, was unveiled at Northrop Grumman’s Palmdale, Calif., site on Dec.16. The first air vehicle, AV-1, is scheduled to make its first flight on Nov.11 next year, while a second demonstrator AV-2 is being assembled, and will be completed around December 2009. Both will be used to demonstrate the viability of carrier operations with an unmanned combat aircraft, with the first X-47B carrier landing expected in November 2011.
The X-47B wing span is an impressive 62.1 ft, compared to 44.7 ft. for an F/A-18. Wings fold in to reduce overall span to 30.9 ft. for stowage.
Leading edge and engine inlet shaping for reduced radar cross section was performed with Lockheed Martin.
Built by GE Aerospace, the landing gear is built to current US Navy mil-standards. However, because of the expected precision landing capability of the autonomous UCAS, Northrop Grumman is optimistic that a lighter weight gear will be feasible on follow-on developments.
(all photos. Guy Norris)