Home » Aviation » X-47B Might Fly into 2015, Next Carrier Tests Could Start in November

X-47B Might Fly into 2015, Next Carrier Tests Could Start in November

A X-47B Unmanned Combat Air System (UCAS) demonstrator launches from the aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush (CVN-77) on July, 10 2013. US Navy Photo

A X-47B Unmanned Combat Air System (UCAS) demonstrator launches from the aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush (CVN-77) on July, 10 2013. US Navy Photo

The Navy is making plans that could extend the testing of Northrop Grumman’s X-47B into 2015 with possible new carrier tests as early as next month, USNI News has learned.

Last week the Navy issued a contract solicitation to extend the testing of the two unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) — dubbed Salty Dog 501 and Salty Dog 502 — as part of the Unmanned Combat Air System demonstration (UCAS-D) program.

The eventual contract will, “continue X-47B aircraft system, test bed, and flight test support at both shore-based locations and associated carrier detachments,” according to the solicitation.”

Sources familiar with the program said — with a contract extension — the testing could extend into Fiscal Year 2015 and could include an aerial refueling test of a X-47B. The refueling test had previously been planned for a surrogate aircraft. The additional funding could bring tests to Navy facilities and ships on the West Coast.

In the shorter term, tentative plans call for X-47B test onboard aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN-71) in November.

Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) would not comment on the scope of the tests or how long the Navy would continue to test the X-47Bs, a spokeswoman told USNI News on Tuesday.

Salty Dog 502 made naval history with the first successful carrier landing onboard USS George H.W. Bush CVN-77 in July.

The UCAS-D program — consisting of not only the UAVs but also the guidance systems and control methodology — was scheduled to conclude shortly following aerial refueling tests with a surrogate.

Both X-47Bs were slated to be museum pieces before NAVAIR head Rear Adm. Mat Winter announced in August flight testing would continue.

“I believe you will see continued operation of the X-47B — at least into the fiscal year 2014 time period,” Winter told Washington, D.C. television station WJLA in August.
“As we go forward we are continuing to assess its operational opportunities.”

The new series of UCAS-D tests will run in parallel with the Navy’s acquisition of the Unmanned Carrier Launched Surveillance and Strike (UCLASS) program.

UCLASS is the Navy’s bid for the first production fixed-wing UAVs onboard aircraft carriers.

Northrop Grumman has until Oct. 10 to respond to the solicitation.

  • SteveCT9

    Why is our Navy so quick to de-commission the two X-47B UAC? Screw the museums for a decade, continue to use them or let them sit in a hanger for a while…what’s the rush? I LOVE our Nation’s museums, my family and I looks to visit any museums we can but the test and operation needs our armed forces comes first. Since the “murder” of our Spruance destroyers (pre-meditated and pre-mature) I no longer TRUST our Navy leadership in testing, acquisition and de-commissioning of out major warfighting assets. Perhaps there should be a stronger and more vocal retired/concerned citizen community that reaches out past the beltway to middle America and says in plain, simple and loud words “THE SYSTEM IS BROKE, AMERICA IS NOT BEING WELL DEFENDED FROM THOSE WHO WANT TO DESTROY OUR COUNTRY BECAUSE OF WHO WE ARE – THE GREATEST DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC IN HUMAN HISTORY. WE MUST BETTER HOLD THE NAVY CIVILIAN AND UNIFORMED LEADERSHIP ACCOUNTABLE, WITH TEN YEAR POST-RETIREMENT EMPLOYMENT FOR BOTH, TRANSPARENT PROCESSES THAT PRODUCES PLATFORMS, WEAPONS ANDS SYSTEMS THAT INSTILL ABJECT FEAR IN OUR EMEMIES HEARTS & MIDS, THAT ARE RUBUST, DEADLY, SWIFT, ECONOMICAL AND ABLE TO PUMMLE OUR SEA-BASED ENEMY SO QUICKLY THEY ONLY CAN CONSIDER AN ASYMETRICAL ATTACK ON THE UNITED STATES!” If WE cannot due this that we are destined to decline. God Bless America! – Stephen A. Dombrowski “sadombrowski@yahoo.com

    • PierreBus

      Honestly, I think the decommissioning thing is a big show. There mere fact that they’re going to put this very recent technology in a museum is a sure sign. There’s no way they’d put that in a museum. Anyone that is looking at this technology is going “wow”. And a “wow” that is both genuine (in the sense of OMG) and another part that is afraid of what’s to come when our ennemies have the same thing and they can also mass-produce thousands of these and overwhelm any country’s defenses and come and willy nilly take out anyone they don’t like(whether with a bomb, or simple miniature drone to take out pollitical adversaries). Once we have drones refueling drones in flights 200 miles off of each other’s coasts, life will become bleak for all of us. By making this big decommissioning smoke and mirrors show, they’re trying to buy some time and make the X-47b and its successors less visible, less awe-inspiring. Because when you see this, you can clearly imagine the drone ships, rocket-powered-boost take off (not from a AC carrier but from smaller drone-carrying ships; stacked side to side pointing straight up), you can imagine KC135 remote controlled refuel planes. And what the leadership probably doesn’t want, is for others to see this and imagine the same things. This is all pure speculation on my part. But it would kinda make sense. The “putting it in a museum” part kinda gives it away,..

    • Gwaulin

      I know someone in the program. they were going to be decommissioned as new ones are coming online with the next set of capabilities for testing. They are just stringing this one out to wring out a little more useful life to save some $. After that they will be in a museum as the technology is moving THAT fast.