Earlier this week the first of two test X-47B unmanned carrier aircraft systems was hoisted aboard the aircraft carrier USS Harry S Truman. The aircraft will continue a slate of tests that have occurred primarily at the Patuxent River Naval Air Station. Completion of the shipboard tests will bring the X-47B one step closer to proof of concept.
As illustrated below, the X-47B is a fighter sized unmanned aircraft system designed by Northrop Grumman. The X-47B is intended to provide the US Navy with an unmanned strike capability and, while the X-47B is merely a test bed for further development, the craft has been outfitted with two internal weapons bays capable of carrying a 4,500 lb, payload. Unlike most drones, the X-47B was designed to fly a specified route and return to base as opposed to being actively flown. If the X-47B’s concept is brought into production, then sometime in the next decade or two the US Navy will be able to strike targets without risking a single naval aviator.
Below is official US Navy footage of the X-47B’s first test flight.
More photos of the X-47B can be found here.