Video: X-47B Makes First Ever Drone Carrier Landing

130710-N-LE576-002USS GEORGE H. W. BUSH, At Sea — The U.S. Navy made history yet again Wednesday when the X-47B drone successfully landed aboard the George H.W. Bush aircraft carrier off the coast of Virginia Beach, Va.

The batwinged-shaped jet built by Northrop Grumman Corp. made a smooth approach, touched down on the flight deck and came to a sudden halt after catching an arresting cable aboard the aircraft carrier at about 1:40 p.m.

Military.com reporter Brendan McGarry was aboard the carrier to witness the historic landing first hand. His full account is linked here. Video is attached below.

Navy Secretary Ray Mabus drew comparisons of the event to pilot Eugene Ely’s first-ever landing of a biplane on a ship in 1911. “It is not often that you get a chance to see the future, but that’s what we got to do today,” he said during a news conference with reporters afterward. “This is an amazing day for aviation in general and for naval aviation in particular.”

The service’s top officer, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Jonathan Greenert, called it a “miraculous technological feat.”

About the Author

Brendan McGarry
Brendan McGarry is the managing editor of Military.com. He can be reached at brendan.mcgarry@military.com. Follow him on Twitter at @Brendan_McGarry.
  • EW3

    Wonder what grade the LDO gave it ?

    • EW3

      Fat fingers…. Should be LSO.

  • stephen russell

    See 2005 movie Stealth, used AI drone in movie sequence, radical then & now
    On DVD

  • hibeam

    Meanwhile the Air Force is trying to figure out how to keep it’s human pilots from passing out in the F-22.

    • brandy

      my suggestion to them: make the pilots pass out on the ground by 3 bottles of brandy before each meal.

      everyone will be happy this way.

      brandy is a lot cheaper than jet fuel and F-22, I guarantee you.

  • Jeff M

    Very impressive. This ought to be #1 priority.

    • Ranger Rick

      I can almost agree, but I think more should be done on the cyber warfare front. The Chinese are eating our lunch.

      • STemplar

        Have you ever read about Stuxnet and what it did and how it did it? We are hardly sitting on our posteriors in cyberwar.

        • ForrestCantrell

          I agree. If you think the U.S. isn’t aggressively active in both defensive and offensive cyberwar activities, you are naive.

          • Anonymous

            But just like in conventional war, our offensive wars aren’t reported on. Because we’re the good guys!??!?

        • Viva la France

          That’s why the US is a threat to world peace and a menace to civil societies around the world.

          • USS ENTERPRISE

            Oy, Charles De Gualle, what about the thousands of US soldiers that lost their lives on D-Day to push back the Nazis from your invaded land? Its sad when you don’t even know your own allies.

  • Joe

    What’s with the video gap between touchdown and then seeing the bird motionless? I thought we’d see the arrest.

  • STemplar
  • Tony C.

    The US Navy is light years ahead of the other services in everything from directed energy weapones, to rail guns, and now ArtificiaI Intelligence drones. Hope that all this doesn’t become self aware like on Terminator?

    • DavidZ

      I want to believe that accidental development of self-awareness is impossible, or at least highly unlikely.

      • hibeam

        It’s never happened in an analog computer (like the one in your noggin) so I’m sure it can’t happen in a silicon based computer.

    • David

      It isn’t A.I. It are programmed. It may have extensive programming allowing it to do lots of impressive things, but it is not A.I.

      • hibeam

        If A.I. is not a program then what is it. A bowl of noodles?

        • USS ENTERPRISE

          …..no. Its a UAV.

  • Nadnerbus

    So, this is a prototype, right? The final version will be larger, with longer range and larger payload. My question is, what is wrong with this version right now? Two thousand five hundred nautical mile unrefueled range, two ton payload. I know this is a small payload, but stealth kinda dictates a smaller payload with no hardpoints for external stores.

    Great range, ability to carry two two thousand pound bombs in a stealthy airframe. How much bigger does it really need to be? I realize that the prototype is a ways away from prime time, despite these good press releases, but I feel like these can’t get to the fleet fast enough. Giving the carrier fleet strike capability from beyond the range of China’s DF21 missiles is a huge tactical advantage, stealthy strike even better. Not to beat any war drums, but I feel much better when the US Navy has the superior hand for strategic deterrent.

    • STemplar

      They released the RFP, 2000 nm combat radius and 1000# payload.

    • tmb2

      It’s a technology demonstrator just to prove the basics. The Navy asked industry to come up with proposals for production aircraft a few months ago. I imagine an upgraded version of the X-47 will be in the running.

    • USS ENTERPRISE

      Well, you have a point. But with the success we have seen from this program, whats wrong with getting even more from the platform?

  • P_R

    No, this a demonstrator, certainly not a prototype.

  • superraptor

    The USN should cancel the F-35C to preserve money for programs such as the X-47

    • JE McKellar

      Or just fire Lockheed and ask Grumman to get the job done instead.

      • Phil

        The X-47 is a Northrop airplane, designed and built in California, not a Grumman airplane.

        • guest

          Northrop bought/merged with Grumman more than a decade ago, Phil.

    • USS ENTERPRISE

      And lose billions in the process? Who upvoted that comment?

  • ted

    Another reason the F35 is already obsolete and a boondoggle.

    • JAY

      Ted – do you have any idea what the hell you are talking about?

      The F-35 B gives the US a significant presence on warships like the WASP – which is not an insignificant thing. Having fighters on ships other than carriers is important.

      For you to say the F-35 program is obsolete is absurd.

    • hibeam

      The F35. Obamacare with wings. Try getting rid of it. Fat chance.

    • Atomic Walrus

      UCAVs are still fairly limited in terms of control and autonomy.

    • USS ENTERPRISE

      You are getting expensive mixed up with obsolete. Yes, the program is hopelessly out of budget, but that hardly makes it a useless aircraft.

  • Phono

    great job, congratulations.

  • Sophic

    It seems rather ridiculous that the government has actually cut this program and is using this prototype for testing purposes for potential future technology. This should be a national priority. This would put less people in danger. It could augment manned fighter planes by taking out air defenses prior to an invasion, thus limiting overall risk. That they cut this is just foolish and shortsighted.

    • Any mouse

      good news. it lives

  • Tim Benton

    The problem with saying the F35 is not needed, is that they are now working in programs and RR for in the future sending in a F35 with 3 to 5 drones, they can keep the F35 as a stealthy control Air Asset, and then if needed to have human intelligence at the spot send it in. Otherwise the drones will be both fighters and bombers, and with the F35’s able to control them over a 50 to 125 mile radius, and the drones able to bomb or fly suppression for the bombers, they can be given coordinates, do their business and then come back under the control of the host air craft.
    The problem I have had with this though, is I would rather see the F22 lines reopened, produce another 1,000 fighters, this way if you need to have a controlling airframe, why not make it the best when it is operated by a pilot.