Home » Air » N-UCAS Takes First Cat Shot

N-UCAS Takes First Cat Shot

by Ward Carroll on November 30, 2012

The X-47B successfully completed it’s first shore-based tests of whether the aircraft is structurally sound and aeromechanically capable of getting airborne using the U.S. Navy’s current steam catapult system.  The drone cat shot took place at the Naval Air Station Patuxent River in Southern Maryland.

“The X-47B shore-based catapult launch we witnessed here today will leave a mark in history,” said Vice Adm. David Dunaway, NAVAIR commander. “We are working toward the future integration of unmanned aircraft on the carrier deck, something we didn’t envision 60 years ago when the steam catapult was first built here.”

Here’s a video of what the Navy called “the start of a new era for Naval Aviation”:

This milestone follows another X-47 event we reported on earlier this week where one of the drones was hoisted aboard the USS Truman for basic shipboard suitability testing ahead of full-up sea trials in a few weeks.

So were the aviators at the nearby Naval Test Pilot School looking out the windows of their classrooms wondering if this “new era” would leave them with nothing to do once they finished the rigorous curriculum there?  Were the helo guys hooting on the fixed wing jet boys telling them that they weren’t the only ones getting replaced by robots?

And, most importantly, will this plot line get worked into the screenplay for “Top Gun 2,” that reportedly is going to be set at NAS Pax River?  (You know, stuff like engineers arguing over sine waves and fatigue life.  Action-packed, Pee Wee!)

We’ll keep you posted as the Invasion of the Machines continues …

Read the full article about the UCAS cat shot at Military​.com.

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{ 75 comments… read them below or add one }

Davis November 30, 2012 at 7:17 pm

Awesome to see!!! Having this UAV will be large part in our pivot toward Asia in the coming years. It will also neutralize the effectiveness of China's DF-21D since, with refueling capabilities, will have a much larger range the the carrier killer missile. Also like the timing of the test and the drone being put on the USS Truman. About a week after China launches a for the first time off and aircraft carrier, something we did about 100 years ago, the US about to test the first drone launched from a carrier. Overall, very excited about this milestone!!!

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marc27 November 30, 2012 at 7:22 pm

sexy! that drone is sexy!!!

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DB-1 November 30, 2012 at 8:01 pm

This could be the beginning of a major evolution in air combat, Imagine if you will instead of UCAV's operating independently, what if they were also programed to act as a wing man for a manned aircraft, they could take all the risk first and there capabilities would be amazing.

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l_veda December 1, 2012 at 12:28 am

now the dream of seeing R2D2 assisting pilot is tarnish…
hmmm that is why lucas stated there "along-long time ago…"

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Max November 30, 2012 at 8:33 pm

That is impressive. Kudos to the Navy and Boeing

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SMSgt Mac November 30, 2012 at 9:49 pm

LOL. That would be "Kudos to the Navy and Northrop Grumman"

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Ron November 30, 2012 at 8:35 pm

I LOVE YOU MR. OBAMA— all you Nei sayers. Told ya He walks quietly but carries a BIG STICK!!!!!YAHOOOOOO!!!!!

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BILL D November 30, 2012 at 9:14 pm

He wasn't in office when the first prototype rolled out, but I hope the govt uses them to get every bad guy they can.

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Ron November 30, 2012 at 9:39 pm

That's what they say when he got Bin Laden, He is the sitting President respect the office of the president. At the end of the day He and his administration put the GO or NO GO stamp.

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smsgtmac@gmail.com November 30, 2012 at 9:51 pm

Heh. Obama can't even spell UAV.

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BILL D November 30, 2012 at 11:32 pm

The current president has to earn respect and HE HASN'T COME CLOSE.

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Ron December 1, 2012 at 12:23 am

2 words re-elected, mark my words he will go down as one of the greatest president. Ronald Reagan was a vocal president, Mr. Obama stealthy-lean and mean military machine.

screecwe December 1, 2012 at 12:58 pm

So you give him all the credit for things previous Presidents have initiated, but when it comes to Iraq and Afghanistan, previous Presidents are given the blame?

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BILL D December 1, 2012 at 5:15 pm

Didn't you know-blame all republicans, and praise all the democrap liberals ruining the country.

Josh December 2, 2012 at 11:24 pm

Agree. Funny since he’s had over double the drone strikes. People hate on the man too much. Regardless, i respect him and am more comfortable with him in office than Romney, we’d probably be attacking iran in february if he got elected :)

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Ron December 2, 2012 at 11:48 pm

You are a great American Josh, and that what is all about , we as Americans especially as a leader of a free world can Agree to Disagree does'nt matter which side of the isle. We are Hated and Most of all Admired by the rest of the world, thank God there is an America.

Musson December 3, 2012 at 9:30 am

Gee Josh, I am to busy counting all the people I work with at the Retirement Home who will be losing their fulltime jobs because of ObamaCare to share your enthusiasm for the man. Lucky for me – I am already a part-time employee.

Obama is shredding the poor in this country.

Musson December 3, 2012 at 9:27 am

This is the Perfect Obama Weapon. He can kill his enemies without leaving the golf course.

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Bman December 3, 2012 at 12:06 pm

Ron, do you go under his desk much? I think I can get bipartisan support for that question.

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Dr. Dave November 30, 2012 at 9:53 pm

Unfortunately, the Navy is only buying two right now……..The future competition for the production variant is still TBD

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Hammer6 December 1, 2012 at 12:59 pm

Why should the USN buy more now? Let's get the UCAV operational concept clear, alongside proving the technology, then consider a volume purchase. Other posts point to big issues, doctrine, staffing, training, and sustainment (among others) that need work.

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Guest December 4, 2012 at 10:56 am

That’s because the X47 is simply a technology demonstrator, not a full production aircraft. Think X1, X15 ect…Just here to validate that the concept can work and be applied to an actual combat aircraft.

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Ben November 30, 2012 at 10:09 pm

It's a shame that these will likely be performing successful CATOBAR ops before the F-35C. Way to go Lockheed.

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Nadnerbus December 1, 2012 at 1:03 am

No Danger Zone sound track? Someone contact Kenny Loggins right away.

I will be stoked to see it perform a successful trap. The cat launch is pretty cool, but also pretty straightforward. The software will really be put to the test on an arrested landing. These things cannot get to the fleet fast enough.

Any word on a possible use of this tech for a refueling drone? Something like this, stealthy or not, converted to haul as much avgas as possible would be a huge boost for the carrier air wing as it exists right now. And seems like it would be perfectly suited to the job of flying race track patterns while Hornets hook up for a drink.

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Ben December 1, 2012 at 1:38 am

I assume it's only a short matter of time once the software is proven.

Northrop has proposed an X-47C, which is essentially a larger version of the B. If they use that and rigged up a way to store fuel tanks in the internal bays then install a fuel probe like they did on the F/A-18's, you'd have a stealthy re-fueler that could get closer to combat zones and better keep combat aircraft in the fight. And you wouldn't have to spend millions on developing and procuring a separate, dedicated aircraft!

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Nadnerbus December 1, 2012 at 5:13 am

"And you wouldn't have to spend millions on developing and procuring a separate, dedicated aircraft!"

Damn, guess that idea is out the window then. Admirals need the job security ya know…

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Belesari December 1, 2012 at 9:33 am

Or we could just build a cheap non-stealthy unmanned refueler using materials already in the fleet.

Use much of the E-3's equipment for what is essentialy a unmanned C-2 with a whole lot of fuel inside.

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So? December 1, 2012 at 2:46 am
BigDealaboutchinks December 2, 2012 at 6:56 am

The brits did that half a century ago dipshit

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blight_ December 2, 2012 at 6:05 pm

I wonder if they're color-coded in accordance with the Navy's flight deck crew.

That said, you still need a guy to assess launch conditions and give the signal, even if you are on a ski-jump carrier.

I would laugh if the PLAAF really had a catapult design, but took great pains to conceal it. It would certainly make a difference with respect to projected combat loads…

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JackBlack December 1, 2012 at 9:46 am

Well this is beautiful.

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Robbie December 1, 2012 at 11:47 am

…….but how does it get back aboard the carrier? Didn't see a tailhook……..

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Ben December 1, 2012 at 12:07 pm

It's got one, it just isn't testing it yet. Baby steps.

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tmb2 December 1, 2012 at 10:38 pm

Robbie, see the photo on this page:
http://lexleader.net/navy-rapidly-redesigns-x47b-

They had to redesign the tailhook a couple months ago. They've done a few tailhook landings on a normal runway since the redesign.

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FormerDirtDart December 1, 2012 at 3:41 pm

While everyone is applauding this milestone, it seems to me that the program is behind schedule, and facing a huge time crunch. Just the other day they loaded the sister X-47 aboard the USS Truman. You would assume in a perfect world that they would have completed all the land-CATOBAR trials before attempting shipboard ops.

I have to assume the trials aboard the Truman were scheduled quite some time ago, with the expectation that aircraft would be certified to "shot & hook." Which it obviously is not. A whole lot of money can wind up being wasted if they find out during land trials that the bird isn't structurally sound to take repetitive catapult launches and arrested landings.

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tmb2 December 1, 2012 at 10:43 pm

It's done a few arrested landings on land already. They discovered during the first of those tests that they needed to redesign the tailhook. The program is a little ahead of schedule time-wise, but is a little over budget.

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dockem December 1, 2012 at 6:10 pm

Is this the same type drone Iran got?

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Belesari December 1, 2012 at 7:09 pm
Dan Gao December 1, 2012 at 6:20 pm

Congratulations to the Navy! It's always nice to see a totally new aircraft program taking shape. Here's to hoping its a little less "painful" than the last few programs were. As I've said before, this is definitely the kind of unmanned system we should be pursuing: stealth, jet powered, and with greater sensor and weapon capacity. Definitely has a bright future for augmenting manned wild weasel and strike missions.

Also: it's nice to see a drone design that can actually be considered good looking

I can't wait to see the eventually service ready UCAVs flying off carrier decks.

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So? December 1, 2012 at 7:40 pm

Especially when you know that THERE IS NO CATAPULT ON THE VARYAG!

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JimBobJoe December 1, 2012 at 11:28 pm

Here's what I'm worried about:
All UAV's may have an Achilles heel in that they could be hacked, perhaps easily.
http://www.informationweek.com/security/vulnerabi

They also rely on GPS more than most systems, which is another Achilles heel considering GPS satellites can be disabled easily.

They would work great in situations where America had electromagnetic spectrum dominance, but could America achieve that over China?

Just seems like there's too many vulnerabilities in the UCAV kill-chain.

I'm guessing/hoping America has this figured out enough to assure very high confidence.

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Ben December 2, 2012 at 12:18 am

You'd think the RQ-170 incident with Iran would act as a huge-ass wake up call. Hopefully they've added a few new security requirements to make sure they're a hell of a lot less vulnerable, or at least equip them all with a self-destruct program.

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William C. December 2, 2012 at 3:41 pm

You do realize that the Iranian claim that they hacked the RQ-170 is most likely BS, right?

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ltfunk4 December 3, 2012 at 1:49 am

Fact is they have the aircraft on display – how many F-18s have they got to show ?

Irianian propaganda is more trustworthy than contractor lies any day anyways.

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STemplar December 3, 2012 at 3:07 pm

Go away Oblat and stay away please.

blight_ December 4, 2012 at 9:04 am

F-18's? None. Or so I thought. They have a number of Iraqi aircraft, from GW1.

EW3 December 2, 2012 at 8:13 pm

"GPS satellites can be disabled easily."

GPS satellites orbit the earth at over 11K miles up. That makes a sneak attack very difficult. There are always new GPS satellites coming overhead to replace the ones already overhead. So the bad guys better shoot them all down which is not that easy.

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blight_ December 4, 2012 at 9:04 am

I guess if the Iranians had a solar flare machine…weather control is for suckers.

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NathanS December 11, 2012 at 12:02 am

I'm sure they're improving their software and capabilities all of the time. It's unlikely that an adversary could use the same trick twice.

Apart from GPS, a drone could use a number of navigation techniques, from the terrain mapping technology used in cruise missiles, to triangulation of military radio or civilian aircraft beacons, to a calculations based on velocity and a compass (as the V2 missiles used in the 1940's) – all of these could be implemented in this day and age easily.

There's no reason it can't double-check it's position using a number of techniques to prevent it being 'hacked' again. And should one navigation method become unavailable, it can switch to another.

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Leroy December 3, 2012 at 3:36 am

well there is some built in redundancy for gps, but in the end those satellites go in defined unchanging orbits, so they are easy to take out, its a matter of big enough booster and some maths you don't even need explosives, as simple kamikaze attack will do it .

The problem with drones is that if you work out a way to interfere with their communications, then they are screwed.

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ltfunk4 December 3, 2012 at 7:25 am

China will be the first to deploy ucavs simply for the reason that the contractors are dragging thier feet trying to avoid pilotless aircraft. As soon as there is no man on board the profit margins plumet they have already seen what happened to the predator.

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blight_ December 4, 2012 at 9:11 am

Contractors don't care. Give 'em billions for government rubix cubes and they'd build that. NG will build and deploy N-UCAS because they're paid to do it.

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zolar December 3, 2012 at 10:34 am

Cool. China will now buy 10,000 of them. And us? We're gutting our military to buy Obama phones for all!

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sailor12 December 3, 2012 at 1:02 pm

How come it did not take the wire???

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Michael December 3, 2012 at 1:28 pm

the X-47 makes me drool

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ServingGreenTea December 3, 2012 at 9:23 pm

I love the new hand signals they're using for the ucas at 0:24 – 0:26.

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JackBlack December 4, 2012 at 1:27 pm

So it is a less of a disgrace or?

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Spad Driver December 4, 2012 at 7:29 pm

Beats the heck outa my ole skyraider!! Go, Navy!

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C Mandleco December 5, 2012 at 9:37 am

Maybe the Army brass might now investigate the religious prejudice at its Dugway Proving Ground facility, as many of the government and contractor workers there have savagely complained to IG's for years about the Mormon problem at all levels of management, especially the West Desert Civilian GS-15. Solution, it has been investigated by that's right, Mormons who hold high level positions in the command structure and it is swept under the rug just like the many large thefts and women being discriminated against or being sexually threatened or harassed.

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Deuce December 6, 2012 at 3:33 am

Farewell, pilot bonus…

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Ernie December 6, 2012 at 1:28 pm

Great! Now I want to see an arrested landing. It makes my old F-4J look REALLY old. I can't wait to see it perform ACM against piloted aircraft. GO NAVY!

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tiger December 6, 2012 at 7:43 pm

Speaking of things, this weekend is Army/Navy game time. Go Navy! Beat Army!!!!!!!

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dharvest December 6, 2012 at 2:27 pm

We have some of the best minds in the world yall. Give them some space. They will work it out. There is no doubt in my mind. As a 22 year and 7 day Navy vet, I am so proud of all our services' capabilities. Press on guys and gals.

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ka5s December 9, 2012 at 5:50 pm

I was an Army avionics tech in 1965, retired 1983.

I could NEVER have thought I'd get to work on some of what makes these birds fly. But I did.

Awesome.

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babes for the troops January 18, 2013 at 9:46 pm
Belesari December 1, 2012 at 9:27 am

Stealthy-Lean…

Read-Totaly unable to conduct ops against any opponent not jihadis.

We tried stealthy lean it was called somalia. We failed horribly and lots of men died for it.

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Guest December 1, 2012 at 9:33 am

So was Nixon, you love him too? Seriously, you think the President who plans on making Veterans pay more for their healthcare, who forced the DoD to "gay-up", and is overseeing a period with the most service related suicides ever is a "military machine"? I realize he loves his kill lists and his drone strikes; he really enjoys the live-action Call of Duty game, but that does not make him a "military machine"

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tiger December 1, 2012 at 10:16 am

I'm Sorry. Even my Cat had a, "Did he just say that" moment? Greatest Presidents & Obama in the same sentence?

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oldtimer December 1, 2012 at 10:53 pm

Ron, your comment is a completely asinine joke. You have to be kidding. "Leading from behind" (??), Retreating from Afghanistan before they are ready to take over, supported radical Al-queada lookalike Morsi to become Egypt's new Ayatollah Khomeini, out-of-control spending, and I could go on. You must be about 18 years old or have had your head in the sand for the last 30. I'm tempted to use a lot more harsh terminology, because your comment calls for it, but I will refrain.

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rofl December 1, 2012 at 1:01 pm

As a member of the silent majority…you people sound ridiculous.

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rofl December 1, 2012 at 1:02 pm

Nice try, troll.

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gonger December 1, 2012 at 3:02 pm

As a member of the not-so-silent majority, you sound like a Liberal; that places you squarely outside the "silent majority" camp.

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NeoconBrony December 2, 2012 at 7:16 pm

The majority still voted for Obama. All the teabaggers and paultards really need to stop drinking their own Kool-Aid and accept that the idea of the United States being a center-right country is a myth.

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blight_ December 4, 2012 at 9:02 am

Allegedly it's a ScanEagle..but those are so small they could be deployed from much smaller platforms.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boeing_ScanEagle http://news.yahoo.com/video/iran-captures-u-drone

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blight_ December 4, 2012 at 9:10 am

Repubs have wanted SS and Medicare pared down to return income to investors for decades. It's just that Obamacare is the bigger dragon to slay right now. Once they put it down it'll be back to the "privatize, it's cheaper". I suppose the next generation of people could try using Roth IRAs to gradually build up their SS instead of getting hit with SS witholding from their paychecks…

The distressing thing is that the retiring generation will be sustained by those working now. There are less of us working now, and for less money than the preceding generation did on average. The retiring small business owner will be sustained by the witholding of Target employees instead of steel mill and auto company employees or computer manufacturing employees.

That's your real fiscal cliff. January 1 is scary, but not as bad as what's coming.

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