This photo of X-47B combat drone taking fuel from tanker proves we are one step closer to unmanned aerial refueling

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

 

Warbird Digest
About David Cenciotti 3632 Articles
David Cenciotti is a freelance 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 four books.