Navy/Northrop Grumman complete first arrested landing of X-47B unmanned demonstrator

The Northrop Grumman-built X-47B Unmanned Combat Air System (UCAS) demonstrator completed its first shore-based fly-in arrested landing on May 4 at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Md. The landing was completed in conjunction with the Navy, and represents the first arrested landing by a Navy unmanned aircraft. This begins the final phase of testing prior to carrier-based trials planned for later this month.

"This precision, shore-based trap by the X-47B puts the UCAS Carrier Demonstration [UCAS-D] program on final approach for a rendezvous with naval aviation history," said CAPT Jaime Engdahl, the Navy's UCAS program manager, in a Northrop Grumman press statement. "It moves us a critical step closer to proving that unmanned systems can be integrated seamlessly into Navy carrier operations."

During an arrested landing, the incoming aircraft extends its landing hook to catch a heavy cable extended across the aircraft landing area. The tension in the wire brings the aircraft to a rapid and controlled stop.

Carl Johnson, vice president and Navy UCAS program manager for Northrop Grumman, said this first arrested landing reinforced what the team already knew.

"The X-47B air vehicle performs exactly as predicted by the modeling, simulation and surrogate testing we did early in the UCAS-D program," said Johnson in the press statement. "It takes off, flies and lands within a few feet of its predicted path."

The arrested landing test culminates more than three months of shore-based carrier suitability testing at Naval Air Station Patuxent River. The testing included precision approaches, touch-and-go landings and precision landings by the X-47B air vehicle. For the arrested landing, the X-47B used a navigation approach that closely mimics the technique it will use to land on an aircraft carrier underway at sea.

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

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