From the launch of the project in 2007 to the first flight in 2011, x47b appeared in front of many military fans. Compared with other combat UAVs, it has the advantages of high speed, large payload and long range. More importantly, it can be invisible, which can improve its survivability in high-risk airspace. After all, a predator type reconnaissance and strike integrated unmanned aerial vehicle is easy to find. However, the mission eventually turned into a stealth UAV with refueling capability. We still haven’t been able to wait for the first stealth drone.

Since the original plan was cancelled in 2006, the U.S. military has independently operated its own UAV program. As a contractor with a long history of aircraft carrier based aircraft, Grumman will naturally follow in the footsteps of the Navy. It is expected that the prototype will be further improved to truly realize the normal take-off and landing of the aircraft carrier deck. After two years of efforts, it has finally completed the x-47b unmanned aircraft we have seen so far. After a lot of time of internal testing, it passed the manufacturer’s internal acceptance.

It should be noted that the x47b has achieved a high degree of autonomy, including autonomous route planning, autonomous landing and autonomous air refueling hose. After performing a high-intensity combat mission, the pilot consumes a lot of energy. At this time, refueling in the air or landing on the aircraft carrier is easy to fail and lead to various problems. However, these technologies verified by x47b may be transplanted to other aircraft models to realize one touch refueling, and even one touch landing when the pilot is highly tired, so as to reduce the pilot’s burden and accident rate.

The stealth UAV x47b with refueling capability reduces the pilot's burden and accident rate

In 2012, two prototypes were tested for anti electromagnetic interference. Because it is a semi-automatic unmanned aircraft, this function is no less important than the design of remote control software. Because of the smooth progress of this work, Grumman was also allowed to send the prototype to the deck of the aircraft carrier for experiments that year. This enables the x-47b to take off and land on the US aircraft carrier Bush for many times, becoming the first unmanned aircraft with this function in the world. As for the night take-off test in 2014, it can only be said to be a very normal thing. The US military has even prepared for future hybrid deployment. Let the x-47b and manned hornet fighters take off and land one by one, forming the prototype of the future air combat cluster.

If the x47b is developed into an unmanned fighter, its combat effectiveness will undoubtedly be terrible. Because it does not need to consider the pilot’s factor, it can save a lot of weight to load more fuel and ammunition. It will be able to fly faster and farther without increasing the resistance of the cockpit. Relying on highly automated autonomy, the fighter can be commanded to perform tasks by releasing signals, rather than requiring the pilot to conduct remote control. Even on a highly complex battlefield, this UAV can still be used as a mobile bomb cabin of a manned stealth aircraft to attack dozens of kilometers in front of the manned aircraft, or simply circle to the side of the enemy aircraft, making it impossible to prevent.

Moreover, in the United States, where high-tech enterprises gather, more than one family can develop such equipment. Lockheed Martin, an old military manufacturer, can also do this. Similarly, Boeing, a powerful company, hopes to obtain orders in this project. In the future, China will also develop advanced UAVs with the same performance to ensure its advantages in future wars.

Responsible editor: GT

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