February 6, 2011 in Nation/World

Navy’s robotic jet makes first flight

Los Angeles Times
 

LOS ANGELES – A bat-winged robotic jet resembling a miniature B-2 stealth bomber flew for the first time at Edwards Air Force Base in a test flight that could mark a new age in naval aviation.

Los Angeles-based Northrop Grumman Corp.’s experimental drone, dubbed X-47B, climbed to 5,000 feet in a 29-minute flight on Friday, the U.S. Navy said in a statement.

The X-47B is being developed to take off from an aircraft carrier, drop a bomb on an enemy target and then land back on a carrier, all without a pilot.

The drone was built behind barbed-wire fences and double security doors at Northrop’s expansive facility in Palmdale under a $635.8-million contract awarded by the Navy in 2007. The drone marks a major shift from existing robotic aircraft.

Currently, combat drones are controlled remotely by a human pilot. The X-47B could carry out a combat mission controlled entirely by a computer. A human pilot designs a flight path and sends it on its way and a computer program guides it from a ship to target and back.

The X-47B is designed to fly farther and stay in the air longer than existing aircraft because it does not depend on a human pilot’s endurance.

Get stories like this in a free daily email


Please keep it civil. Don't post comments that are obscene, defamatory, threatening, off-topic, an infringement of copyright or an invasion of privacy. Read our forum standards and community guidelines.

You must be logged in to post comments. Please log in here or click the comment box below for options.

comments powered by Disqus