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Video: X-47B Flies with Gear Up

by John Reed on October 27, 2011

The X-47B making test flights at Edwards Air Force Base. The drone is being used by the Navy to test fly a fighter-sized UAVs off aircraft carriers

This is turning out to be quite the day for cool pictures of Navy aircraft. The image above shows the Navy’s X-47 unmanned combat aerial vehicle demonstrator flying with its landing gear up for the first time on Sept. 30.

The stealthy drone is being used by the Navy to test out the concepts for flying a fighter-sized UAVs off aircraft carriers — something the sea service plans to do by the end of the decade with its UCLASS drones.

The X-47B has been making test flights at Edwards Air Force Base, Ca., since February. The plane is slated to conduct sea trials off an aircraft carrier in 2013, using this technology.

Enjoy the video after the jump:

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{ 35 comments… read them below or add one }

Tim October 27, 2011 at 4:12 pm

What a beautiful bird!

Hopefully, the testing will be completed in due time and the Navy will invest to a few hundreds of these.

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FormerDirtDart October 28, 2011 at 2:08 am

Why in the world would you think the Navy should invest in hundreds of "demonstrators"?

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John Moore October 27, 2011 at 4:23 pm

Looks like a UFO to me.

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ew-3 October 27, 2011 at 10:32 pm

my fist thought too. the side view looks like an exotic flying saucer.

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Brian Black October 31, 2011 at 7:07 am

It's about time that Roswell started paying off.

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STemplar October 27, 2011 at 5:22 pm

I hope this system pans out. This will be such a leap for carrier strike. That 1500 nmi combat radius can't be over stated.

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STemplar October 27, 2011 at 5:23 pm

Oh, and love the WW2-esque newsreel music in the video.

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Nadnerbus October 27, 2011 at 9:01 pm

No kidding. What's the range on China's "carrier killer" missile? 900 miles? 1500 nautical mile combat radius pretty much makes the carrier force invulnerable to that threat again, while giving the carrier stealthy first strike capability.

I'm not a war drum beater with regards to China, but I do believe in staying a step ahead of any potential adversary.

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Myo Ko Ko October 27, 2011 at 8:36 pm

it's so beautiful!!!!

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Overkill33 October 27, 2011 at 10:03 pm

We must stay ahead of all nations to preserve our nation, not just our freedom. We can and we will. NG and the people of the USA keep us there, Support them.

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Jeff m October 28, 2011 at 12:42 am

Yeah that is one sexy weapon. 1500nm thats great, retire the b-2.

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William C. October 28, 2011 at 1:01 am

Seriously? The B-2A belongs to the USAF, not the USN, and has a 6000nm range. Plus can carry a much larger payload.

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blight October 28, 2011 at 2:12 am

And nukes.

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Nick Dwyer October 28, 2011 at 1:17 am

Gonna ask u to leave now.

I wonder if a B-52 could hold a few of these?

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STemplar October 28, 2011 at 4:06 am

My preference would be design and build the B3 first.

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Uncle Bill October 28, 2011 at 3:12 am

I wonder if 10-30 ucav in a strike package could be accompanied by a pair of F35's being refueled by a ucav or two loaded with fuel in place of some ordnance. Or is that just dumb? I'm assuming a high degree of synergy between manned and unmanned aircraft would make combining them desirable.

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greysave October 28, 2011 at 9:14 am

Great concept. Finally a replacement for the a-6 intruder.

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Ziv October 29, 2011 at 10:56 am

Yeah, and when the shit hits the fan, throw a few UCAV's at it while the manned aircraft get the hell out of Dodge… You lose a UCAV, tough break, you save a manned aircraft, one of our highly trained pilots gets to go home to his wife and kids.

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wallpatrol October 28, 2011 at 9:10 am

Why not build a model that has a human pilot flying it? F17 replacement?

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Musson1 October 28, 2011 at 9:37 am

Didn't Will Smith fly one of these in Independence Day?

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terrythedoc October 29, 2011 at 4:59 am

no, it was an F-18

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PMI October 29, 2011 at 10:49 am

I think he means the alien ship.

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Sanem1 October 28, 2011 at 4:31 pm

on UCAV air combat, this is a very difficult discussion, because

a) it doesn't exist (DARPA believes in flying cars, invisible tanks, but not in letting a computer do the shooting?)

b) if it does exist (probably kept secret for obvious reasons) it's pretty much impossible for us cyber geeks to judge its effectiveness (just as no one really has a clue of what something like an F-22, F-35, or any other advanced jet is really capable of)

so all further argumentations are pure speculations. but still:

- modern dogfighting UCAVs do not require AI to be succesful. the F-22's is extremely manouverable, yet its main power lies in speed, range and stealth. its like taking an expert sniper, and specialising him for close combat. a nice edge, but in a system, its an unnecesairy and extremely expensive luxery

if you use UCAVs in a network, as little more than flying SAM launchers, their effectiveness would be huge. they'd use external or passive target data to attack targets with maximum stealth and range, and even if they did get shot down (as would any fighter if facing enough enemy aircraft at short range), it'd be cheap and expendable enough to still come out the battle winning

a UCAV has a also a huge edge defensively: it can dodge enemy missiles better than a human can. it can track them, millisecond by millisecond, even multiple ones at multiple angles, react millisecond by millisecond to the situation, without the slightes fear, and can fly manouvres a manned aircraft cannot to dodge them

it's like landing on an aircraft carrier, UCAVs will be able to do this better than humans. humans have the initiative, but they also have fear, and make mistakes. when it comes to super complex situations, cold logic and super-human reflexes in the end will win the day

- if you do insist on dogfighting

a) who says (usable) AI doesn't already exist, and is capable of dogfighting. the T-50 is rumoured to have such systems. the F-35 is the most expensive weapons program in human history, it uses nano technology, it can visually detect, identify and track multiple targets, and respond to anything from ground to sea to air attacks. I seriously doubt it doesn't have an AI

b) dogfighting UCAVs would have a number of important advantages over human pilots. resistance to G forces is one, but even more important I believe is the ability to fight as a team. when a human pilot is flying around in a fight, with 20 friends and targets and limited weapons and fuel and altitude, it becomes extremely difficult to keep track of the situation and coordinate with allies

UCAVs would have no such problems. they would constantly communicate, always aware of friend and foe location, weapon and fuel reserves, and would constantly devise new tactics and strategies to create situations where they are at the advantage, like flying in such a pattern that their fields of fire overlap, or enemy aircraft get in the way of enemy missiles

human overseers, optionally in pursuit aircraft nearby, just need to monitor the overall situations and provide tactical and strategic guidance. the computer does the rest

on UCAV cost, again this is a difficult discussion, for lack of experience, and the complexity of many factors. however

- training is a huge advantage. it costs millions to train pilots, and keep them trained

- simplicity is another factor, no need to take into account the human that needs to interact with the system (ref F-35 helmet problems) or be kept alive (ref F-22 oxygen problems)

- but the biggest factor to any future UCAV's low cost will be numbers. development costs for the X-47b, or any other UCAV, runs in the hundreds of millions, where the F-22 and F-35 cost hundreds of billions to develop. so you need a lot less aircraft to earn back that development cost, and once you get past that, greater numbers mean lower and lower prices

on synergy between manned and unmanned, I'm all for that. although I think long distance guidance, from AWACS or ground will do the thrick for most missions, there's always use for a human operator flying nearby, ready to add some advantages to any situation. however, the F-35 is horrible for this, because it only has one pilot. I think the F-22 would be better at it, being faster, better stealth, more weapons, more range…

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TomUK June 8, 2012 at 1:24 pm

Define ‘AI’, specifically.

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terrythedoc October 29, 2011 at 5:06 am

Using some of these with F-18s alone will give China, India,Iran,Russia,or anyone else nightmares from H*ll!!Then add in the F-36 and they will prey for death to come as quickly as possible!! It really doesn't matter if they're carrying fuel or ordinance for manned aircraft, the drones can be cobfigured to be refuelers as well as bombers.

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BigRick October 29, 2011 at 3:58 pm

It'll be real interesting if these birds have some form of "defensive self-awareness" where they could take independent evasive action to avoid missile hits and enemy aircraft, or to even "engage" enemy aircraft-now that would be really something to be scared of.

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Bob October 31, 2011 at 4:06 am

Now if only lasers were coming out instead of the whwwls it would look even greater

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Richard Walker October 31, 2011 at 12:00 pm

Sorry folks, as a crusty old fighter pilot (Phantoms) a robot will Never replace a human. Just how many of you will sit behind a robot on an airliner (no pilot on board)? There is a slot for these beasties, but you need a pilot to think for it and he needs to be close to see the whole situation. RPV's are great too, but the pilot is somewhere else and cannot see the entire threat picture.Humans will become obsolete when machines can think. That's going to take a while…

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Larry October 31, 2011 at 6:29 pm

I hear you Richard…honestly…but like eh…even the best planes in the world…IMHO, the Phantoms…currently have a bone yard buddy.
Personally, I wish there were more than one flying in the private sector.

Larry

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John W. Boyd Jr May 28, 2012 at 1:18 pm

An aircraft without a pilot could maneuver at supersonic speeds in ways no manned aircraft could match.

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chaos0xomega October 27, 2011 at 5:31 pm

what makes you think that unmanned systems are automatically cheaper than manned systems?

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ian October 28, 2011 at 11:26 am

How much does training flight time cost? When your UAV flies itself and can be directed to go from point to point by a Private, that's alot of fuel, maintance and pay saved..

A computer beat the best chess player is the world 10 years ago, and you think It a computer couldn't out dogfight pilots today?

And as far as AI goes, AI does not:
1. Gets disorientated by Gs
2. lose situational awareness or lose track of where everyone is.
3. Get tired.
4.Get bored
5. Cost millions to replace if shot down.

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Guest October 28, 2011 at 5:05 pm

Tell you what, when a UAV can tangle with an F-15 or even a MiG21, I'll be convinced. Then there's the issues of glitches, hacking, viruses, bandwith, etc.

Again, this is not an all eggs in one basket issue. Both UAVs and manned aircraft can and should be used together, at least for the forseable future

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Ziv October 29, 2011 at 10:54 am

I see the UCAV as being the tip of the spear, a strike package would have a couple low observable UCAV's out front to use passive devices to detect threats earlier than the strike package would know otherwise. And when the package is finally detected, the UCAV's would be ordered to attack any threats before they could detect or engage the manned fighters or attack planes.

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Guest October 30, 2011 at 5:29 pm

Ziv, that's a good idea. I would like to see UAVs and manned aircraft being used in complementary roles so we can get a "best of both worlds" result

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