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.

  • Mark

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

  • 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?

  • 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!

    • UAVGeek

      Watch Macross Plus

  • Lance

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

  • Chase Messer

    did they actually cat launch that thing?

  • Noha307

    I noticed there’s no plane guard…

  • Jay

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

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • JackBlack

    Ok, good lets see it land.

  • jrfsenior