Increased Test Productivity Lifts Off With First Flight of Second Northrop Grumman-Built X‑47B Unmanned Aircraft

Expan­sion of Fleet Adds Momen­tum, Flex­i­bil­i­ty to Flight Test Pro­gram
EDWARDS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif., Nov. 28, 2011 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Northrop Grum­man Cor­po­ra­tion (NYSE:NOC) and the U.S. Navy will be able to increase the pace and pro­duc­tiv­i­ty of the X‑47B flight test pro­gram fol­low­ing the suc­cess­ful first flight Nov. 22 of the sec­ond air vehi­cle devel­oped for the Navy’s Unmanned Com­bat Air Sys­tem Car­ri­er Demon­stra­tion (UCAS‑D) program.

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The avail­abil­i­ty of two X‑47B unmanned air­craft enables the UCAS‑D pro­gram to con­duct a faster and more pro­duc­tive flight test pro­gram.
Source: Northrop Grum­man
Click to enlarge

The tail­less, autonomous air­craft known as Air Vehi­cle 2 (AV‑2) took off under hazy skies from Edwards Air Force Base at 12:43 p.m. PST, climbed rapid­ly to an alti­tude of 5,000 feet, flew sev­er­al race­track pat­terns over Rogers Dry Lake, then land­ed safe­ly at 1:12 p.m.

The suc­cess­ful addi­tion of AV‑2 to the fleet of X‑47B test air­craft pro­vides a crit­i­cal inflec­tion point for the UCAS‑D pro­gram,” said Carl John­son, vice pres­i­dent and UCAS‑D pro­gram man­ag­er for Northrop Grumman’s Aero­space Sys­tems sec­tor. “With two air­craft now avail­able, we can increase the amount of air­craft per­for­mance data we gath­er, which will allow us to meet our required air­craft capa­bil­i­ty demon­stra­tion goals in a time­ly manner.”

The avail­abil­i­ty of two test air­craft is par­tic­u­lar­ly impor­tant, added John­son, for help­ing the pro­gram main­tain a sat­is­fac­to­ry flight test rhythm as it begins tran­si­tion­ing X‑47B air­craft to Naval Air Sta­tion Patux­ent Riv­er, Md., (Pax Riv­er) for shore-based car­ri­er suit­abil­i­ty test­ing. While one air­craft is being moved to Pax Riv­er – expect­ed to occur by the end of 2011 – the oth­er one will con­tin­ue enve­lope expan­sion flight test­ing at Edwards.

The test­ing at Pax Riv­er is sched­uled to begin in ear­ly 2012. It will include test­ing the X‑47B’s abil­i­ty to con­duct pre­ci­sion approach­es to the car­ri­er, and to per­form arrest­ed land­ings and “roll-out” cat­a­pult launch­es at land-based test facil­i­ties. The test­ing will also include flight test­ing pre­ci­sion nav­i­ga­tion com­put­ers and new guid­ance, nav­i­ga­tion and con­trol soft­ware recent­ly installed on both air­craft. The new suite of hard­ware and soft­ware will enable the X‑47B to make pre­ci­sion land­ings on a mov­ing car­ri­er deck.

The X‑47B is a com­put­er-con­trolled unmanned air­craft sys­tem that takes off, flies a pre­pro­grammed mis­sion, and then returns to base – all in response to mouse clicks from a mis­sion oper­a­tor. The oper­a­tor active­ly mon­i­tors the X‑47B air vehicle’s oper­a­tion using sim­ple sit­u­a­tion­al aware­ness dis­plays, but does not fly it via remote con­trol, as some unmanned sys­tems are operated.

The Navy award­ed the UCAS‑D prime con­tract to Northrop Grum­man in August 2007. The con­tract calls for the devel­op­ment and flight test­ing of two strike-fight­er-sized X‑47B unmanned air­craft. In 2013, the pro­gram is sched­uled to demon­strate the first car­ri­er launch­es and recov­er­ies by a tail­less, unmanned, low-observ­able-rel­e­vant air­craft. Autonomous aer­i­al refu­el­ing demon­stra­tions are planned for 2014. For the lat­est X‑47B news and infor­ma­tion, please vis­it www.as.northropgrumman.com/products/nucasx47b/.

Northrop Grumman’s UCAS‑D joint indus­try team includes GKN Aero­space, Lock­heed Mar­tin, Pratt & Whit­ney, Eaton, Gen­er­al Elec­tric, Hamil­ton Sund­strand, Dell, Hon­ey­well, Goodrich, Moog, Wind Riv­er, Park­er Aero­space and Rock­well Collins.

Northrop Grum­man is a lead­ing glob­al secu­ri­ty com­pa­ny pro­vid­ing inno­v­a­tive sys­tems, prod­ucts and solu­tions in aero­space, elec­tron­ics, infor­ma­tion sys­tems, and tech­ni­cal ser­vices to gov­ern­ment and com­mer­cial cus­tomers world­wide. Please vis­it www.northropgrumman.com for more information.

CONTACT: Brooks McK­in­ney, APR
(310) 331‑6610 office
(310) 864‑3785 mobile
brooks.mckinney@ngc.com

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