X-47B next gen UCAS completes first tests aboard USS TRUMAN

The Navy released the first photos from the schedule of tests the service has planned for the X-47B Unmanned Combat Aircraft System (UCAS) aboard the USS HARRY S TRUMAN.

The photos and video released so far are pretty striking. I have to agree with Defense News’ Chris Cavas, these shots look straight out of a science fiction movie or one of the Power Point slides that defense officials show to display the Navy of 2030 or 2040.

Navy officials have just started their battery of tests as controllers tested taxiing around the flight deck of the Truman. These photo and video are from those tests. (Video after the jump.)

Mobile readers should click here for the video.


About the Author

Michael Hoffman
Michael Hoffman is the executive editor at Tandem NSI and a contributor to Military.com. He can be reached at mhoffman@tandemnsi.com.
  • Mike

    So out of curiosity? How does it take the directions? At first I assumed there was some sort of camera vision installed and its programmed to act with the specific hand signals but then I noticed a guy with some sort of joystick (the guy in the all green) who seemed to be controlled the UAV. Either way really cool vid.

    • David

      Currently a joystick. But they are actually working on a recognition system using cameras and interpreting the standard arm waving motions

    • alexD

      yes, there was a guy with a joystick-like device strapped to his forearm that was controlling it. I assume he would be taking signals from the guy giving hand signals, even though that guy is facing the aircraft.

    • tmb2

      That UAV looks very imposing. It took me a few seconds to remember the plane wasn’t actually taking directions from the yellow shirt and someone else was controlling it :)

    • LCDR Joe Byers

      Why not give the Yellow Shirt the Control Stick? CJ Byers

      • Ricorish

        The Yellow Shirts crunch enough jets!! Last thing you would ever want is one of them playing flight simulator….

    • They could get rid of the Yellow shirt. He usually directs the pilot.
      The problem with that is how will everyone else in the flight deck know what the aircraft is doing?
      In the video there are a few other aircraft and a few people around. In a real deployment they flight deck would be packed and there would probably be 100 people on the flight deck all performing different jobs.
      The flight deck is dangerous enough without a remote controlled aircraft running you over because you thought it was going to go one way and it goes another…..

      • blight_

        Then it depends on who has the joystick. Chances are someone on flight deck will take charge of launches (it’ll probably be /the/ yellow shirt).

        And here I was thinking that they would design robots to replace the deck hands, or design systems to facilitate automated refueling/rearming.

      • lemoutonzelectrique

        They certainly tests procedures on top the plane itself. I figure the Yellow Guy, in action will have to control traffic for both planes and drones mixed together. Must certainly help the other pilots at following the game and realize quickly the yellow guy talks to a robot. There certainly won’t be any close-by joystick once in service to see action. Since it probably will prey mostly at night, if there’s a guy in the loop needed to position it before launch, I’ll bet he’ll look through the drone’s fancy night vision long before relying on his own blindness to roam around.

    • Mike

      I had this thought about the whole replacing the joystick guy. What I think might be going on is that the camera vision in the UAV is “learning” the hand signals while responding to the joystick signals. That way, in the future they don’t need the human control and instead are able to navigate themselves around. Or it could come down to, until the technology is furthered, that for a factor of safety, while the UAV is on the deck it is controlled by a person.

      • blight_

        Imperfect gesture recognition could be dangerous…

        • rob

          imperfect gestures could be dangerous

    • Jerseyguy!

      Better yet. Wait till we start sending these in multiples of 15 or 20 to perform what ever capabilities we retro fit them to perfom. Like the
      Will Smith Movie “Independence Day”. Welcome to the future…….

    • Tundratubast

      My guess is that they were training the computer to recognize the visual direction of the flight deck director, “the yellow shirt” who is giving the hand signals. The technician, “green flight suit” was piloting the aircraft via a joy sticking, providing the same movements to the UAV’s computer, training the computer to match visual signals to a digtial response. This is my best Cliff Kleven, “Its a well known fact” of what is occuriing in this video, based on my 20 years of being an Navy Aircrewman and a plane director.

  • Mark

    Notice how the weather is absent of all lightning strikes? ;-)

    • TJRedneck

      I wonder if they named it Eddie? ;)

  • Musson

    I wonder how the flying wing effects the ability for the craft to get airborne? Ground effect off of a carrier deck should be significant – but going off the bow might lead to a significant loss of lift.

    Any thoughts?

    • Mark

      Not any more different then any other plane.

    • EdC

      I wouldn’t tihnk it would differ much from any other carrier based plane. They know that stuff before hand as it;’s all done with computer simulations.

    • David

      A blended wing body greatly increases lift.

    • Andy

      turning into the wind puts about 40 knots across the deck, he will get lift…

    • Greg

      No shit, that’s why you take off at full after burner, just like every other Jet on the deck. You hit ETL and your set. Dumb comment.

  • whoaa

    Now let’s not have Iran get this one, even though I really believe they dont have the first ones. And, its freaking awesome looking.

  • terry lindest

    what’s the point in the ground guides ,giving signal’s to an empty cockpit ?

    • tchump

      from the video, the guide is actually giving signals to the drone’s operator, who is standing behind him.

      I assume the reason he’s giving signals facing the drone itself is to match up drone operations as closely as possible with manned operations.

      That way, the ground guide and other crew can treat the drone just like any other plane on deck, and the only guy who needs to learn anything new or different is the drone operator.

      Seems like that would be the best way to minimize confusion, misunderstandings, mistakes, and loss of life and property–everybody just keeps doing what they always do, and the drone fits right into that.

      • XYZ

        except that it does add another guy on deck that isn’t normally there. Hopefully they’ve worked all that out but I imagine it can get hectic (I have no experience with this stuff, just conjecture)

    • EdC

      I think the aircraft is designed to recognize hand signals and the guy with the joystick was probably there in case anything went wrong. Like instead of a turn to the left it went into full afteburner!

      • Jayson

        I don’t think they have AB but I get your thought and think of it throttling up.

  • viulenz

    Hopefully iraninas won’t hack and take control of this one too.

    • grumpyoldman

      Who says they have gained control of any of our AUV’s?

  • PenguinMedic

    All it needs is a red eye moving back & forth…

  • BlackOwl18E

    I don’t think it will be able to stand up to the inevitable Cylon invasion.

    • crackedlenses

      That’s what the rail-guns, Rods from God, and XM-25 Punisher are for ;)………..

  • Stealth

    I bet the fighter pilots must have been pissed, I’m gonna go watch that movie STEALTH now because of this.

    • Mastro

      Whatever you do- DON’T watch the movie Stealth!

      • Thomas L. Nielsen

        What do you mean “don’t watch”? Two words: Jessica. Biel.

        Regards & all,

        Thomas L. Nielsen

        • Sanem

          I was thinking UCAV dogfighting Su-37, but she’ll do…

    • UAVGeek

      Watch Macross Plus

  • Lance

    Id feel more convinced when they land it in choppy seas if not on a icy deck.

    • Tinto

      Willing to think, the XB will get more OK 3rs, than most jet jocks.

    • PiercingArrowz

      F-18s already land themselves, and have been for years.

  • Chase Messer

    did they actually cat launch that thing?

    • Dale Matthews

      Yeah from a cat in the ground at PAX River.

  • Noha307

    I noticed there’s no plane guard…

    • Dale Matthews

      Not needed for Flt Deck Taxi tests.

      • Noha307

        Yeah, I was trying to be silly ’cause this is an unmanned bird, but I completely managed to miss that fact.

  • Jay

    It’s a Grumman bird Let’s get a cat back in the fleet.
    How about: Shadow Cat

    • blight_

      Thunder Cat!

    • RobD

      Ghost Cat

    • MarsBar

      Kit Kat!

    • gonger

      Iron Leopard.

    • Nadnerbus

      Something more DOD sounding. Joint Unmanned Combat Aerial Vehicle Cat. JCat!

      Must please the Goldwater/ Nichols mafia.

      • blight_

        Joint Networked Universal Common Unmanned Combat Aerial Vehicle?


      • Thomas L. Nielsen

        “Fast Unmanned Common Kinematically Upgradeable Performer”?

        (Sorry, couldn’t help myself – for what it’s worth I am a great believer in the future of unmanned air vehicles).

        Regards & all,

        Thomas L. Nielsen

  • Leroy

    OK seriously building drones is all well and good, but what happens when someone works out a way to jam the control signals? Seriously this is a major weakness and they seem not to care?

    I mean as soon as I see a load of drones heading towards me, I would start jamming the SOB’s like no ones business!

    • blight_

      More likely than not, the drones will be programmed to bomb objectives, and maybe have some adaptive programming for self-defense or to vary their routes.

      In the ’80s TLAMs used TERCOM to get to their destination, but rigidly followed preprogrammed routes. With GPS there’s greater flexibility in getting from point A to point B, but one of TERCOM’s advantages was it could pictorally recognize the final target. With GPS you have to have some faith in the accuracy of the coords you will be bombing. Alternatively, if UCAV can recognize targets, it may be able to autonomously correct a GPS fix.

    • EdC

      this isn’t a drone. it’s a pilotless aircraft. it’s programmed with a pre destined flightpath. I assume it can be altered if necessary but it’s not designed like our drones. Completely different animal.

      • blight_

        “Drone” is a generic term for an unmanned aircraft, but they should be appropriately subdivided into “teleoperated vehicles” and “autonomous vehicles”.

    • STemplar

      Thats the trick though isnt it? You have to see them. Then the whole notion of jamming is kind of thrown out there wildly. It is possible to jam GPS signals in a local area but it requires considerable power and depending on what we r bombing 6 ‘ circle of error accuracy might not be needed. An oil refinery for example is place and not terribly submunition tolerant. 2000 lb bombs make pretty big pot holes in runways.

      • STemplar

        Oil refinery is a big place.

      • blight_

        INS should also put you on target, and if you use image-based recognition, bombs away. Big whoop.

        Then again, if you’re ambitious and use visual camoflauge, such as mothballing a giant oil refinery underneath digicam and false panels to break up the profile, then build a deceptive decoy structure nearby and augment with GPS jammers, infra-red decoys and put missile batteries around the decoy…

    • Dale Matthews

      How do you think Predator flys from US to Australia without a pilot aboard.?

  • Dfens

    1903 — Wright Bros fly the first airplane, 45 years later in 1948 the X-1 breaks the sound barrier, 64 years later the first UAV lands on a carrier. Anyone see a problem here?

    • yep, in 13 years Skynet will activate and annihilate the “cancer”

    • blight_

      They’re all aircraft milestones, but not necessarily related.

      What should be more troubling is that in WW2 V1’s and V2’s were inertially guided, then the homing torpedoes came out by war’s end, the Firebees were teleoperated by C-130’s and GCS through Vietnam and by the ’90s we’re teleoperating UAVs by satellite.

      And it takes sixty years to go from radio-controlled (by nearby mothership aircraft) torpedoes to unmanned drones landing on a carrier. And carriers are a mature technology, so…

  • projob66

    there is actually a little guy in the cockpit flying it called “Rocket J. Squirrel”. And the guy with the antlers standing behind the cat taxi director needs no introduction…. I wonder what happens when its black and no moon and no horizon and the deck is moving more than the lens can deal…. I wonder if they have to clear the deck while the automagic FCLS trys to hit the 3 wire… First Carrier that Kamikazes itself wins a new “Battle K”..

  • robertro2

    great news when they fly it over IRAN and they get it what is the next move???

  • doningram

    the drone is usually controled by an e-4 or civilian, located in some secure location, that has lots of training once it is airborne. take off and landing are mainly controled by the UAV onboard computers with an overide from the ldo onboard. this will be a great boost to the USA aircraft inventory, i saw them in action in “the stan’s” they are awesom and welcome to the boots on the ground. i wonder if the UAV can be refueled inflight then we could keep it in the air until it needs reloading or maint.

    • David

      This is one of the first true “drones”. Though I’m sure there will be an operator in the loop the operator will be more of an observer rather then an operator. The drone is made to fly the mission on its own. It isn’t the typical predator that takes off and lands on it own but is controlled the rest of the time.

  • Steve B

    I belive that UAV aerial refueling has already been demonstrated.

  • Sanem

    at some point the UCAV will be able to optically recognise crewmen’s hand signals, think xbox connect ;) or the onboard pilot or crewman with controller in hand steers it directly

    jamming is extremely hard to do, if it was easy what would stop other countries from controlling guided missiles and satellites?

    the big kicker is what effect this will have on the F-35, and the question why the USN is very actively pursuing a program that directly conflicts with the F-35
    why buy the F-35 when you can have a combination of F-18E/F’s and UCAVs? especially in any future Pacific scenario, where the UCAVs vastly superior range and endurance over anything but a B-2 makes it the only game in town

    • Dale Matthews


  • Michael

    cool; fn right

  • Iyaoyas
  • DHH

    China will have one in no time. They just need to need to give Iran a few million dollars for that drone they hacked and have in storage.

  • Al Carter

    Can you imagine rack storage of these things? We might be able to double or triple the number of aircraft on a carrier! OK, they’re scary and disturbingly revolutionary, but let’s take the leap. Dump the F-35. Unmanned aircraft are the future.

  • will

    this is the answer to fiscal cliff requirement for spending cuts…no more pilots, flight school etc etc…lol, j/k so don’t get your tailhook bent outa shape

  • will

    then again this could be another like patton’s cardboard army in england as feint for norma….ndy for friends in china to see…produced by same guys that did the faux moon landing in 69…again j/k

  • C Smeigh

    It looks, sounds, and is called UCAV just like the UAV in the movie “Stealth”. Hollywood again ahead of reality. Great addition to the fleet.

  • ltfunk4

    Our military with ucavs is amazing similar to the french were with tanks – considering them armored horses. History shows us that the real revolution will come from the rising powers such as china not the falling incuments.

    We you see our militaries fixation on preventing casualties with it’s total failure to understand insurgencies its hard not to come to the conclusion that even small and middle ranked powers will shift thier strategies to directly targeting our population aiming for mass casualties as a pudent deterrent.

    • MetairieMike

      Where did you ever get the idea that “real revolutions” in the military come only from “rising powers?” Prussia (following the defeats by Napoleon) and America (following the defeat in Vietnam)both had armies that were great – then were defeated – then reinvented themselves to become great again. It has more to do with leadership than whether a nation is a rising power or in decline.
      France, for instance, has been in “decline” as a ‘World Power” since just after the end of World War One; but it still has a first-class military by today’s world standard, is innovative, forward thinking and continues to contributed a lot to the advance of military technology. I did a number of joint ops with the French and they were absolutely top notch, with great equipment, great leadership, and motivated soldiers/airmen. I could say the same thing about the Japanese, the ROKs, the Danes and a few others.
      So ‘revolutions’ (military or otherwise) can come from anywhere so long as there is the will and a need to adapt.

    • blight_

      I don’t see the connection between armored horses, tanks and UCAVs.

      The French built very powerful tanks, but distributed them piecemeal to infantry units, rather than concentrating them into what we would call ACR’s or armored divisions today.

      If anything, knights on horseback *were* concentrated into shock elements that *were* thrown into peasant armies, but we thought the lesson of the gun era was that shock could be defeated with fire; and it could until the shock element could survive guns (tanks), and then the tank was distributed widely to kick the door in for infantry, who at the beginning of the gun era became the arm of decision.

      “History shows us that the real revolution will come from the rising powers such as china not the falling incuments.”

      Which revolutions? There’s Bolivar, but that was a literal revolution to free South America from the colonials. Or maybe the naval innovations of Drake et al against the incumbent Spainards? (Which ignores the fact that even after the loss of the Armada, Spain was still Top Dog for centuries).

      Second paragraph remains on target. The problem with using the threat of civilian attack to deter a military response is that it means a terrified populace may support the /pre-emptive/ attack to minimize civilian losses, and pre-emptive attacks will be more likely to trigger wars that didn’t need to be triggered in the first place.

  • Sergei

    We all know DT has a hard time finding things to post so time for us to help get this site back out of the gravyyard and into the light.

    What about the 200 mill f-16 order being sent off to Egypt at out expense?

  • T075
  • Jeffrey Burroughs

    Another waste of money, just like the F35 program $107 million per aircraft with no engine. Probably taking the money out of the retiree healthcare fund.

    • Thomas L. Nielsen

      “Another waste of money, just like the F35 program” – Your reasoning (if any) behind that statement?

      “Probably taking the money out of the retiree healthcare fund” – Same as above.

      Regards & all,

      Thomas L. Nielsen

    • Guest

      What an incredibly stupid thing to say.

  • JackBlack

    Ok, good lets see it land.

  • jrfsenior