Sunday, August 13, 2017

Modified X-47B unmanned aircraft breaks cover

A modified version of the Northrop Grumman X-47B stealthy unmanned carrier capable aircraft has been revealed being prepared for testing from a U.S. Air Force facility in Palmdale, California.

The aircraft, according to Aviation Week, is the flight test bed for US Navy's MQ-25A Stingray unmanned aerial refueling tanker contest.

Flight testing of the two X-47B prototypes as a part of US Navy's Unmanned Carrier Air Vehicle demonstrator (UCAS-D) program was completed in 2015.

According to the Aviation Week report, the aircraft has been integrated with an wing air refueling pod (WARP) under the left wing (seen in the photo) and a drop fuel tank under the right wing.

Even though not visible from the the picture, the report identifies the X-47B as the second prototype 502 Salty Dog due to presence of the aerial refueling drogue. The Salty Dog performed the first autonomous aerial refueling by an unmanned aircraft using Navy's drogue and chute method, in April 2015, completing the program.

The WARP is powered by a RAM Air Turbine

The MQ-25A will be the first operational unmanned carrier borne aircraft of US Navy and is intended to carry fuel and perform autonomous aerial refueling to extend reach of Navy's manned aircraft.

In 2013, these X-47B were used to demonstrate the first ever carrier-based launch and recovery of unmanned aircraft.

The tailless bat winged aircraft is powered by a single Pratt & Whitney PW F100 turbofan engine, with a central upper fuselage air inlet. Excluding the engine configuration, the X-47B resemble an subscale version of the U.S. Air Force B-2 Stealth Bomber.