> our title:

X-47B Catapulted from US Navy Carrier

> original title:

A 'Watershed Event': Naval Air Forces Commander Calls X-47B Catapult Launch A Pivotal Milestone In Naval Aviation

(Source: US Navair Air Systems Command; issued May 14, 2013)


USS George H.W. Bush (AT SEA) --- The X-47B Unmanned Combat Air System demonstrator (UCAS-D) completed its first ever carrier-based catapult launch from USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77) off the coast of Virginia today.

“Today we saw a small, but significant pixel in the future picture of our Navy as we begin integration of unmanned systems into arguably the most complex warfighting environment that exists today: the flight deck of a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier,” said Vice Adm. David Buss, commander, Naval Air Forces, the Navy's “Air Boss”.

The unmanned aircraft launched from the deck of George H.W. Bush at 11:18 a.m. It executed several planned low approaches to the carrier and safely transited across the Chesapeake Bay to land at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Md., after an approximately 65-minute flight.

Buss called the launch a "watershed event" in naval aviation and said he expects that decades from now, a future "Air Boss" will have a picture of the X-47B launching from Bush behind his or her desk just as he has a picture of aviation pioneer Eugene Ely's first-ever landing on the deck of a ship in 1911 behind his desk today.





Completing another important first for the UCAS-D program, the team demonstrated the ability to precisely navigate the X-47B within the controlled airspace around an aircraft carrier at sea and seamlessly pass control of the air vehicle from a “mission operator” aboard the carrier to one located in the Mission Test Control Center at NAS Patuxent River for landing.

“The flight today demonstrated that the X-47B is capable of operation from a carrier, hand-off from one mission control station to another, flight through the national airspace, and recovery at another location without degradation in safety or precision,” said Matt Funk, lead test engineer for the Navy UCAS program.

Prior to the catapult launch on Tuesday, the UCAS test team also conducted deck-handling and ship-integration testing to demonstrate the capability to safely operate the X-47B in the dynamic, unforgiving environment of an aircraft carrier flight deck.





“This event is a testament to the teamwork, professionalism and expertise of everyone involved with X-47B program,” said Rear Adm. Mat Winter, program executive officer for Unmanned Aviation and Strike Weapons. “Their work will positively impact future unmanned aviation development for years to come.”

Over the next few weeks, the X-47B aircraft will fly approaches to the ship multiple times and eventually land on the pitching flight deck, said Navy UCAS Program Manager Capt. Jaime Engdahl.

The UCAS team will conduct additional shore-based testing with the X-47B at NAS Patuxent River in the coming months before its final carrier-based arrested landing demonstration later this summer.


(EDITOR’S NOTE: As recently pointed out by Av Week’s Bill Sweetman, the first launch of an unmanned aircraft from a ship took place nearly 90 years ago, and Navair is trying hard to work around this inconvenient fact.
--In the caption to a photo accompanying its press release, it claims “George H.W. Bush is the first aircraft carrier to successfully catapult launch an unmanned aircraft from its flight deck” (False: it was HMS Argus)
--In the lead paragraph above, it says the X-47B “completed its first ever carrier-based catapult launch, which although factually true is ambiguous enough to be interpreted at THE first catapult launch.
And a previous blog post claimed this would be the first catapult launch of a UAV from a "modern aircraft carrier,”, again factually true but ambiguous.
In much the same strain, Northrop below sees the “historic” event as worthy of “history books.”
Why are they so desperate to give the impression this is a historical first? Is the event not significant enough on its own merits?)


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Northrop Grumman, U.S. Navy Catapult X-47B from Carrier Into History Books

(Source: Northrop Grumman Corporation; issued May 14, 2013)

NAVAL AIR STATION PATUXENT RIVER, Md. --- Northrop Grumman Corporation (NOC) and the U.S. Navy today launched a new chapter in the history of unmanned systems – carrier-capable unmanned aircraft – by successfully catapulting the X-47B Unmanned Combat Air System (UCAS) demonstrator from the deck of the USS George H.W. Bush (CVN-77).

The launch occurred at 11:18 a.m. Eastern time while the carrier was under way off the coast of Virginia. The tailless, strike-fighter-sized aircraft flew autonomously back to Naval Air Station Patuxent River where it landed safely 65 minutes later.

"Today's catapult launch of the X-47B is a momentous feat for naval aviation," said Capt. Jaime Engdahl, Navy UCAS program manager for the Naval Air Systems Command. "It proves that the Navy's goal of operating unmanned systems safely and effectively from aircraft carriers is well on its way to becoming a reality."

Northrop Grumman is the Navy's prime contractor for the UCAS Carrier Demonstration (UCAS-D) program. The company designed, produced and is currently flight testing two X-47B air vehicles for the program. Air Vehicle 2 completed the catapult shot.

"Catapulting the unmanned X-47B off the USS George H.W. Bush is an event as historic as the Navy's first catapult of a manned aircraft, which occurred in Nov. 1915 from the armored cruiser USS North Carolina (ACR-12)," said Carl Johnson, vice president and Navy UCAS program manager for Northrop Grumman. "We are delighted to help launch this new era of naval capability."

The X-47B catapult launch occurred just one day after the USS George H.W. Bush had departed from Naval Air Station Norfolk, Va.

The current at-sea period is the second such test period for the UCAS-D program. In December 2012, the program hoisted an X-47B aircraft aboard the USS Harry S. Truman (CVN-75), then demonstrated that the aircraft could be maneuvered safely and precisely on the ship's flight deck, in its elevators and in its hangar bay.

In preparation for the launch, the UCAS-D program successfully completed a series of shore-based catapult shots at Naval Air Station Patuxent River between November and March. The air vehicle was transported by barge from Patuxent River to Naval Air Station Norfolk in early May, then hoisted aboard the ship.

Northrop Grumman's UCAS-D industry team includes Pratt & Whitney, GKN Aerospace, Eaton, GE Aviation, UTC Aerospace Systems, Dell, Honeywell, Moog, Lockheed Martin, Wind River, Parker Aerospace and Rockwell Collins.

Northrop Grumman is a leading global security company providing innovative systems, products and solutions in unmanned systems, cybersecurity, C4ISR, and logistics and modernization to government and commercial customers worldwide.

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