U.S. Navy catapults X-47B combat drone for the first time

On Nov.29, the X-47B Unmanned Combat Air System (UCAS) demonstrator successfully completed its first land-based catapult launch from Naval Air Station Patuxent River.

Hence, as China greeted the first successful landing on a combat plane on its Liaoning aircraft carrier, the U.S. Navy has made another significant step toward the future integration of drones on the carrier deck.

A step that will make naval aviators as we know it no longer sitting in the cockpit of an embarked plane but piloting killer unmanned planes from a more comfortable chair inside a ground control station.

Ground-based cat launches and recoveries will continue in the future at Pax River before the X-47B embarks on USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75) later this month for its initial sea trials.

First carrier-based launches and recoveries by an autonomous, unmanned aircraft are expected in 2013.

Image credit: U.S. Navy photo courtesy of Northrop Grumman by Alan Radecki

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About David Cenciotti
David Cenciotti is a journalist based in Rome, Italy. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviationist”, one of the world’s most famous and read military aviation blogs. Since 1996, he has written for major worldwide magazines, including Air Forces Monthly, Combat Aircraft, and many others, covering aviation, defense, war, industry, intelligence, crime and cyberwar. He has reported from the U.S., Europe, Australia and Syria, and flown several combat planes with different air forces. He is a former 2nd Lt. of the Italian Air Force, a private pilot and a graduate in Computer Engineering. He has written five books and contributed to many more ones.