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Video: X-47B Performs Historic Touch and Go Aboard Carrier

by Mike Hoffman on May 20, 2013

An X-47B unmanned combat air system (UCAS) demonstrator prepares to execute a touch and go landing on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77), marking the first time any unmanned aircraft has attempted a touch and go landing at sea. George H.W. Bush is conducting training operations in the Atlantic Ocean.The X-47B continues to make aviation history during it’s round of tests aboard the aircraft carrier George H.W. Bush. The carrier drone performed its first ever touch and go operation aboard a carrier on May 17.

Just three days earlier, the X-47B Unmanned Combat Air System-Demonstrator became the first ever drone to be launched from a carrier. The drone crossed the Chesapeake Bay and landed at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Md., about an hour later.

Navy officials will continue to perform a battery of tests before the service plans to execute an arrested landing with the the X-47B on the carrier. Performing the touch and go is one of the important first steps, Navy leaders said.

“This landing, rubber hitting deck, is extremely fulfilling for the team and is the culmination of years of relative navigation development. Now, we are set to demonstrate the final pieces of the demonstration,” said Don Blottenberger, UCAS-D Deputy Program manager, in a statement.

Capt. Jaime Engdahl, manager of the UCAS program, said he was happy with the launch of the X-47B from the flight deck of the carrier, but he explained at a May 15 press conference that the landing aboard a moving carrier is more difficult.

“The most technologically demanding and significant portion is actually touching down on a moving flight deck and then continuing to roll down the center line of the runway on the carrier while the aircraft and the carrier are pitching and rolling,” he said.

Navy leaders used the word perfect when describing the first ever touch and go by the X-47B, built by Northrop Grumman.

“We are proud to be a part of another historic first for Naval Aviation. The landing was spot-on and it’s impressive to witness the evolution of the Carrier Air Wing,” said Capt. Brian E. Luther, Commanding Officer of the George H.W. Bush (CVN 77).

For those who missed it last week. Here is the video of the launch.

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{ 33 comments… read them below or add one }

JongM May 20, 2013 at 10:58 am

20,215 kg of pure Democracy….! Go USA


Fred May 23, 2013 at 7:08 am

If only you had a clue as to what you're saying. You have no idea what Democracy is and you sure as H have no idea what pure Democracy is.
If you ever have to feel it – I guarantee you won't like it – particularly when you just happen to fall in the 49th percentile rather than the 51%. But US/EU are headed that way just as fast as they can get there.
What will it take for the US ego to understand this country was NEVER intended to be a democracy? What happened to the Republic?
Go ahead and research for just five minutes to learn where demcracy leads. The joke is on the gullable masses who fall for this crap.


USS ENTERPRISE May 23, 2013 at 11:15 am

Man, I can see how you are saying that the USA, along with practically ALL "democracies" are really Republics, (the people vote others into office to decide on the matters, rather than everyone collectively voting on something). But really, would you rather want a dictatorship?


Petter Krohn May 28, 2013 at 3:55 am

In all fairness, a dictatorship is a lot more efficient way to run a country.
If run by a good, fair and honourable leader. Not many of them so far, though….


blight_ May 28, 2013 at 9:26 am

Dictatorship works in the corporate world.

Think of how messy procurement programs would be if design was put to the vote.

"All in favor of leading edge extensions? The ayes have it"

Thomas L. Nielsen May 28, 2013 at 9:37 am

"If run by a good, fair and honourable leader". The operative word in that sentence being "If".

A dictator is, almost by definition, not held accountable (if you discount armed mobs, assassinations, revolutions, etc.), and this tends to breed and/or encourage the kind of behaviour we normally see in dictators. Or, as someone once said: "Power corrupts. Absolute power corrupts absolutely".

Regards & all,

Thomas L. Nielsen

Fred May 28, 2013 at 10:14 am

I don't like what a democracy is, and I definately do not like where they lead. History has proven over and over (look it up) that democracies inevitably lead to oligarchies (the few over the masses), which in turn inevitably leads to revolution.
On the other hand you asked if I preferred a dictator. No, I don't prefer that either. Personally, God is the only leader I need. Beyond his guidance, all that is left is to be free in his Creation. I don't need no stinking government of men to rule and guide me through life. I do realize this is a leap for millions out there who believe we NEED leaders. But the truth is, Love for God, Love for mankind and freedom is all we need to get through life. Just stop and think before you add the "But……..".


blight_ May 28, 2013 at 10:47 am

Democracies bog down because people cannot effectively segregate themselves into groups of like-minded folk. You must live with neighbors that you cannot agree with, and the seeds of discord are sown…

Thomas L. Nielsen May 29, 2013 at 2:03 am

"….democracies inevitably lead to oligarchies (the few over the masses), which in turn inevitably leads to revolution." – Any supporting evidence for that statement?

Regards & all,

Thomas L. Nielsen

blight_ May 20, 2013 at 11:18 am

It's been a long time since a new Grumman graced a flight deck.


KrazyCOL May 20, 2013 at 11:28 am

The Grumman ur referencing, i.e. Bethpage, L.I. is long gone!, unfortunately


blight_ May 20, 2013 at 11:50 am

I like to pretend that Grumman is somehow still alive in the beast that is NG, but considering that they closed out Long Island, I really doubt it.

That said, Northrop's last naval product was probably the pre-Hornet (which went to MD to navalize).


KrazyCOL May 20, 2013 at 11:59 am

sorry, like my dear ole dad, its long gone. Its a sad drive down I think rte 116 on L.I. these day's. I have fond memories of family day, except the one at Calverton, when "A cat" lost hydral. press. on landing decent, the wings swept back, both test pilots punched out, but sadly to low. Very sad day for 'The Big G" that day!


blight_ May 20, 2013 at 1:31 pm

This particular incident? http://www.topedge.com/panels/aircraft/sites/mats

"1st prototype suffered hydraulic failure on second flight and crashed into woods while on approach to Calverton."

The crash reports are numerous, and it puts into perspective the improved quality of aircraft today.

Ed C May 21, 2013 at 10:32 am

There's still a small presence on LI. My train pases right through the Bethpage plant every day and they still have the big Grumman blue ball on top of the building. There's also a VF-31 Tomcat on display thare. sadly I think there are only a few hundred empolyes left. Calverton is another story…completely abandoned. Very sad to see that.


KrazyCOL May 20, 2013 at 12:02 pm

The "47 does look like one capable remote-c bird… reach out & touch something BIG. ha !


Tad May 20, 2013 at 2:30 pm

It's heartening to hear about a well-run naval program after fiascos like LCS, San Antonio class, etc…


USS ENTEPRISE May 20, 2013 at 7:43 pm

Lockheed, are you hearing this?


Snurlatch May 23, 2013 at 10:14 am

Lockheed made the Leading Edge on the X-47B & the Tail Hook assembly.


USS ENTERPRISE May 23, 2013 at 11:16 am

Whose name is officially written before the "X-47B"?


stephen russell May 20, 2013 at 8:10 pm

See 2005 movie STEALTH on DVD, forecasting the X47 then.


Ed C May 21, 2013 at 10:40 am

Brave souls out there on deck as that thing comes in. Had the same feeling being on deck when an A-3D trapped. Scary.


warren Clement May 22, 2013 at 10:53 pm

I'll bet it didn't take long for you to loose your fear of the Skywarrier.


DTECH Guest May 21, 2013 at 4:13 pm



Phono May 22, 2013 at 11:36 am

congratulations :)


lazyzealot May 22, 2013 at 11:55 pm

Take off looked good… The landing at PAX not so much so… Did you see it? I worked on the Global Hawk and it came off like precision on an airfield. I don't see this thing landing on a rolling deck of an aircraft carrier in the near term future… Keep at it boys….


Bat Morris May 26, 2013 at 12:43 pm
Dfens May 22, 2013 at 8:32 am

We've got nothing better than the F-14 today. The F-22 prototype crashed too, just not as hard. The sad thing is, we could have had an airplane as good as the F-14, but in a head to head competition the USAF chose the wrong jet. How sad is that?


USS ENTERPRISE May 22, 2013 at 10:59 am

Wait, what? Agreed, the F-14 was an excellent interceptor aircraft, and later a good strike fighter (bomb cats) but it hardly compares to the F-22 when it comes to air to air. The F-14 has a radar signature that makes a barn have a low RCS. The F-14 is NO WHERE near the maneuverability capabilities the F-22 has to offer. The AESAs in the F-22, I would imagine, are far more powerful than the F-14's radar. The only advantage, from what I can see, are the AIM-54s. Overall, while the F-14 was undoubtedly a great fighter, and probably should still be in service, it wouldn't serve well with the USAF, as we don't need a strike fighter; we already have and excellent one (F-15E). And air superiority was being offered by the F-22. Its air-to-air capabilities are unmatched.


Thomas L. Nielsen May 29, 2013 at 1:59 am

And the alternative is?

In the words of (supposedly) Winston Churchill: "Democracy is the worst form of government. Except for all the others that have been tried".

Regards & all,

Thomas L. Nielsen


blight_ May 29, 2013 at 8:15 am

Indeed, since I can't think of any real democracy. At some point, representative democracy is an oligarchy with larger number of oligarchs, though 535 for the United States plus a POTUS sounds more oli than demo.


Thomas L. Nielsen May 29, 2013 at 8:30 am

Webster's online dictionary provides the following definitions of "oligarchy":

1: government by the few

2: a government in which a small group exercises control especially for corrupt and selfish purposes; also: a group exercising such control

3: an organization under oligarchic control

Using definition 1., a representative democracy is indeed an oligarchy. Notably, one where the oligarchs are elected (and can be "un-elected").

But this, in my not-so-humble opinion, does not make representative democracy any "worse", or other forms of (non-) government any "better".

Regards & all,

Thomas L. Nielsen

PS: One of the only examples of direct (or "real") democracy I can think of is the pirate ships of yore. Here, decisions were (often, not always) made by the whole crew by way of vote. This was also often (but again, not always) how the captains were elected. And un-elected, if there was too long between the treasure galleons.


blight_ May 29, 2013 at 8:41 am

Agreed, but I posited it as a needle to pop the helium balloon of "democracy is so awesome" that often needs to be popped.


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