X-47A & X-47B UCAS – UAV
Northrop Grumman designed and built the X-47A with its own funds to demonstrate low-cost, rapid prototyping; robust unmanned vehicle management; and tailless aerodynamic qualities suitable for autonomous launch and recovery flight operations from an aircraft carrier. Lessons learned from the development and testing of X-47A will be used in support of the company's X-47B Unmanned Combat Air System UCAS program. Built largely with composite materials and powered by a Pratt & Whitney JT15D-5C engine providing 3,200 pounds of thrust, X-47A measures 27.9 feet long with a nearly equal wingspan of 27.8 feet. The X-47A incorporates advanced autonomous flight control laws to account for directional control of its tailless design. The X-47A was designed in El Segundo at the Western Region business area of Northrop Grumman Integrated Systems. The vehicle was built at Scaled Composites in Mojave, Calif.
The goal of the X-47B UCAS program is to demonstrate the technical feasibility for an unmanned system to effectively and affordably conduct surveillance, strike and suppression of enemy air defenses missions within the emerging global command and control architecture. The X-47A program played a significant role in supporting this effort.
Objectives of the UCAS program are to 1) demonstrate the technical feasibility of a network-centric, land- and carrier-based unmanned combat aerial vehicle; 2) prove UCAS operational utility; and 3) prepare the way for an accelerated development and production program.
The Northrop Grumman team will produce two full-scale X-47B unmanned combat air vehicle demonstrators and two mission control stations. Specific program performance objectives include an air vehicle that would have a strike radius of 1,500 nautical miles autonomously, or fly to a point 1,000 nm away and remain there for two hours, all the while carrying a 4,500-pound payload.
(Based on resources provided by Northrop Grumman)