Northrop Grumman’s X-47B J-UCAS Team Simulates Control of Four Unmanned Surveillance Attack Aircraft within Aircraft Carrier Airspace

Northrop Grumman Corporation (NYSE:NOC) has successfully completed a simulated exercise that demonstrated the simultaneous control of four X-47B unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) during U.S. Navy aircraft carrier operations.

The exercise, conducted Sept. 28 at the Naval Air Warfare Center Weapons Division in China Lake, Calif., is part of Northrop Grumman’s work on the Joint Unmanned Combat Air Systems (J-UCAS) concepts demonstration program.

"This is a major milestone for the Northrop Grumman X-47B team," said Scott Winship, Northrop Grumman’s X-47B program director. "We demonstrated the integration of multiple X-47Bs into carrier airspace using existing Navy flight and control procedures, which significantly increases the confidence of successfully introducing UAVs into normal carrier operations."

Using a surrogate aircraft which represented one X-47B, three additional simulated X-47B aircraft were successfully controlled during several flights using advanced mission-management software and air traffic control procedures currently used by Navy aircraft carriers.

The air traffic controller provided standard commands to a single mission operator, who in turn ensured all four aircraft safely operated within the simulated carrier’s airspace.

The demonstration illustrated the controller’s ability to guide all four aircraft through the approach, wave-off and traffic pattern procedures, while accomplishing proper spacing and air traffic de-confliction. The mission operator was able to monitor the entire process to ensure proper command response and advise the controller on aircraft response or performance limitations.

The U.S. Air Force/Navy J-UCAS program will demonstrate the technical feasibility and operational utility of "stealthy" land- and sea-based unmanned surveillance attack aircraft, and provide the Air Force and Navy the option to acquire these systems early in the next decade. The X-47B design demonstrates a variety of foundational system capabilities including land- and carrier-based operations and automated aerial refueling. The design also demonstrates key mission-requirement capabilities like persistent surveillance and reconnaissance, all-weather precision targeting, and precision attack of fixed and mobile surface targets.

The X-47B is Northrop Grumman’s initial air-vehicle configuration for the modular X-47 system, which can support a broad range of advanced unmanned air-vehicle configurations and military operational performance requirements.

Northrop Grumman Integrated Systems is a premier aerospace and defense systems integration organization. Headquartered in El Segundo, Calif., it designs, develops, produces and supports integrated systems and subsystems optimized for use on networks. For its government and civil customers worldwide, Integrated Systems delivers best-value solutions, products and services that support military and homeland defense missions in the areas of intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance; space access; battle management command and control; and integrated strike warfare.

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