The Northrop Grumman X-47B failed to land on the USS George H.W. Bush (CVN-77) on Monday in the Navy’s fourth and final attempt to land the unmanned autonomous vehicle, according to a late Tuesday statement from Naval Air Systems Command.
“Aircraft ‘Salty Dog 501’ was launched to the ship on July 15 to collect additional shipboard landing data. During the flight, the aircraft experienced a minor test instrumentation issue and returned to Naval Air Station Patuxent River, where it safely landed,” Naval Air Systems Command said in a statement to press.
Monday’s aborted landing leaves the program with two successful landings out of four attempts for the X-47B as part of the Unmanned Combat Air System Demonstration (UCAS-D) — the Navy’s attempt to prove it can operate an unmanned autonomous aircraft from an aircraft carrier. On July 10, call sign Salty Dog 502 made two successful landing on Bush out of planned three.
“We accomplished the vast majority of our carrier demonstration objectives during our 11 days at sea aboard CVN 77 in May,” said Capt Jaime Engdahl, Navy UCAS program manager in a Tuesday statement.
“The final end-to-end test of the UCAS including multiple arrested landings, flight deck operations, steam catapults, to include hot refueling procedures, was accomplished on July 10 and the procedures, the X-47B aircraft and the entire carrier system passed with flying colors.’”
The third landing was aborted after the aircraft detected an anomaly in a navigation computer that guided the aircraft, according to a July 12 report in Aviation Week.
The last landing attempt brings to a close the X-47B portion of UCAS-D. The program has one more series of tests scheduled to prove the autonomous system can successfully undertake a midair refueling. Instead of using the two X-47B aircraft — bound for museums following their testing — NAVAIR plans to use a surrogate aircraft with the same software and guidance systems.