First vids and pics: X-47B Unmanned Aircraft at sea aboard carrier TRUMAN

The X-47B taxis in the TRUMAN's landing area among F/A-18 Super Hornet strike fighters and an H-60 helicopter. (U.S. Navy photo by MC3 Kristina Young)

Like just about everybody connected with the Navy, the folks on the USS HARRY S TRUMAN (CVN 75) took time this weekend to watch Navy once again get the better of Army in the annual football smackdown. But the TRUMAN crew also is out to sea, hard at work, and they’re testing a new aircraft, the X-47B prototype strike jet. It’s the first time the new unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) has gotten wet with salty sea spray.

Look closely at these pics, taken Sunday, Dec. 9, as the ship maneuvered off the mid-Atlantic coast. For years, computer-aided illustrations have portrayed a carrier of the future, showing bat-wing UAVs that look a whole lot like this puppy, tucked among the normal flight deck clutter.

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But this time, that’s not photoshop. It’s the real thing, driving around F/A-18 Super Hornet strike fighters, C-2A Greyhound logistics aircraft, and H-60 helicopters. Sailors, engineers and members of the Navy’s Unmanned Combat Air System (UCAS) program office (PMA-268) aboard the TRUMAN are learning how the aircraft maneuvers on and off elevators, over arresting gear wires, around a crowded hangar, and hooking up to catapults.

The aircraft was hoisted aboard TRUMAN at Norfolk on Nov. 26, and the carrier is undertaking about three weeks of tests with the unmanned system.  A sister aircraft — the Navy has two X-47Bs, both delivered from Northrop Grumman — made the UCAS program’s first catapult launch Nov. 29, taking off from Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Maryland.

While the current round of tests on the TRUMAN is centered on testing handling and control characteristics, officials have not ruled out a flight test if all conditions are nominal.

Another view of the TRUMAN with the X-47B. (U.S. Navy photo by MC3 Kristina Young)

This closeup view gives an idea of the relative size of the UAV.

All four of the carrier's steam catapults are visible in this view, two at the forward end of the ship and two more at the fore end of the angled deck landing area. The X-47B is designed specifically for carrier operations, with strengthened landing gear and folding wings. (U.S. Navy photo by MC3 Kristina Young)

The X-47B maneuvering around the TRUMAN's flight deck. Sailors are getting used to the idea of a jet aircraft driving around the ship with no one in the cockpit. (U.S. Navy photo by MC2 David R. Finley Jr)

The operator in the green vest and white helmet, just right of center, is wearing an arm-mounted control display unit (CDU) to remotely control the aircraft. A Navy press release from the ship quoted Gerrit Everson, one of the operators, saying, "these tests proved that we can taxi the X-47B with the precision that an aircraft carrier’s flight deck requires.” (U.S. Navy photo by MC2 David R. Finley Jr.)

VIDEO: Maneuvering on the flight deck, with control unit at :32  YouTube Preview Image

VIDEO: View from the carrier’s island as the X-47B drives on the flight deck YouTube Preview Image

VIDEO: Overall views of TRUMAN underway with X-47B on deck YouTube Preview Image


Christopher P. Cavas
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Christopher P. Cavas

If it's on, over, under or around the water, I write about it. Ships and aircraft, units, tactics, leadership, strategies, acquisition, politics, industry. In the USA and around the world.
Christopher P. Cavas
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