Feb 5 2011
Don’t expect any more innovations like the X-47B in the near future. Obama has slashed the military budget for new offensive weaponry.
WIRED– –(H/T cpocerl) —America’s fleet of 11 big-deck aircraft carriers just got a lot closer to becoming a lot more dangerous. On Friday afternoon, Northrop Grumman’s X-47B, a prototype for the Navy’s first carrier-capable killer drone, flew for the first time from Edwards Air Force Base in California.
“Taking off under hazy skies, the X-47B climbed to an altitude of 5,000 feet, flew several racetrack-type patterns, and landed safely at 2:38 PM PST,” Northrop crowed in a press release. “The flight provided test data to verify and validate system software for guidance and navigation, and the aerodynamic control of the tailless design.”
“Designing a tailless, fighter-sized unmanned aircraft from a clean sheet is no small feat,” Northrop veep Janis Pamiljans added. While omitting a plane’s tail makes it way more stealthy, it also makes it harder to control.
The benefits are clear. With far greater range than the Navy’s existing F/A-18 strike fighters, the X-47 would allow Navy carrier groups to sail farther from shore when launching air strikes, helping protect the priceless vessels from the increasingly dangerous anti-ship missiles being fielded by nations such as China. The X-47 would also be able to sneak through the defensive umbrella of today’s “Triple-Digit” anti-aircraft missiles.
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