The US Navy for the very first time tested an X-47B unmanned aerial vehicle aboard aircraft carrier, USS Theodore Roosevelt at the same time as a manned combat aircraft - F-18 Hornet.
“The X-47B could take off, land and fly in the carrier pattern with manned aircraft while maintaining normal flight deck operations,” said Capt. Beau Duarte, program manager for the Navy’s Unmanned Carrier Aviation office.
The deck-based operator used newly developed deck handling control to manually move the aircraft out of the way of other aircraft, allowing the F/A-18 to touch down close behind the X-47B’s recovery.
“For this test period, we focused on integration with manned aircraft,” said Lt. Cmdr Brian Hall, X-47B flight test director. “We re-engineered the tailhook retract actuator and updated operating software to expedite wingfold during taxi, both of which reduce time in the landing area post-recovery.”
The X-47B will remain aboard CVN 71 for the duration of the underway period. It will perform additional cooperative deck and flight operations with F/A-18s and complete night deck handling and flying quality evaluations.
The Navy will continue X-47B flight operations over the next year to refine the concept of operations to demonstrate the integration of unmanned carrier-based aircraft within the carrier environment and mature technologies for the future Unmanned Carrier Launched Airborne Surveillance and Strike system.