X-47B has completed first contact with an aerial refueling hose.
On Apr. 16, “Salty Dog 502”, one of the two Unmanned Carrier Air Vehicle demonstrator (UCAS-D) aircraft of the X-47B program performed autonomous aerial refueling (AAR) test, plugging the in-flight refueling (IFR) probe into the hose of a Omega Air tanker off the coast of Maryland.
The AAR in set to be the last for the two X-47B stealth killer drone technology demonstrators (the other being “Salty Dog 501”): with the end of this testing phase the two unmanned aircraft will be retired and probably donated to a museum or stored at the “boneyard”, the Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group (AMARG) at Davis Monthan Air Force Base, Arizona.
In fact the X-47B is “just” a technology demonstrator and, as such, it’s till quite different from the planned Navy’s Unmanned Carrier Launched Surveillance and Strike (UCLASS).
In spite of calls to extend testing on the Northrop platforms, the costs to reconfigure the two X-47B in such a way to let them behave more like the Navy’s preferred option for UCLASS would be prohibitive.
Image credit: Northrop Grumman