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Navy drone plays well with manned aircraft, caps it with a carrier landing

Steve Dent, @stevetdent
August 19, 2014
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The unmanned X-47B drone has proven itself carrier-capable, but can it fit into normal flight operations? The Navy aimed to find out recently in some joint maneuvers alongside an F/A-18 Super Hornet aboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt. The X-47B model was tweaked with faster tailhook retraction and new software so that it could be parked more quickly after flights. It then flew carrier patterns along with an F/A-18, including a catapult launch, eight-minute flight, tailhook landing, taxiing and parking. As shown in the video below, crews were able to get the X-47B out of the way quickly after touchdown, letting the manned Super Hornet land shortly afterwards. It'll soon perform night-flying tests and other maneuvers, toward the Navy's ultimate goal of a Skynet-ish sounding UCLASS (unmanned carrier launched airborne surveillance and strike system).

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