US Navy Tests Fighter Jet and Drone’s Simultaneous Takeoff from an Aircraft Carrirer

By: | September 24th, 2014

Image courtesy U.S. Navy

The U.S. Navy recently conducted tests of its unmanned drone alongside a manned fighter jet, operating together aboard an aircraft carrier.

Manned aircraft follow the precise timings for quick deployment but getting a drone to follow the same hectic rhythm was a big challenge.

Both the X-47B drone and the F/A-18 Super Hornet fighter jet performed well in the test flights, which took place aboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt. The test assessed whether unmanned drones could take off and land in quick succession alongside manned fighter jets.

Here are some of the features of the bat-winged X-47B drone:

  • Unlike any propeller-driven combat drone, stealth drone X-47B is Jet powered.
  • Built by Northrop Grumman Corp., it looks like a mini-B-2 stealth bomber.
  • Nicknamed “Salty Dog 502”, the drone has a 62-foot wingspan and can fly higher than 40,000 feet with supersonic speed.
  • The drone has a weapons bay with a payload capacity of 4,500 pounds.
  • This drone has a range of more than 2,400 miles and can be navigated from thousands of miles away.
  • Navy fighter pilots fly missions for more than 10 hours but this drone can fly for three times that long.

The cost of the program is estimated to be around $6 billion. The US Navy will carry out similar tests in near future.  The next challenge will be, performing the same tasks in the night or “night deck handling.”

Nidhi Goyal

Nidhi is a gold medalist Post Graduate in Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences.

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