Navy's X-47B Drone Flies Gear Up

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The Navy's project to develop a tailless drone that can take off and land from ships at sea reached a milestone recently when the X-47B test aircraft retracted its landing gear and flew in cruise configuration for the first time. The successful test took place at Edwards Air Force Base in California on Sept. 30, the Navy said this week. "Reaching this critical test point demonstrates the growing maturity of the air system, and its readiness to move to the next phase of flight testing," said Janis Pamiljans, program manager for Northrop Grumman. The project team aims to complete takeoffs and landings from an aircraft carrier in 2013.

The recent flight was part of an ongoing envelope expansion program for the first of two X-47B aircraft produced by Northrop Grumman for the Navy's Unmanned Combat Air System Carrier Demonstration program. Envelope expansion flights are used to demonstrate aircraft performance under a variety of altitude, speed and fuel load conditions, according to Northrop Grumman's news release. The vehicle first flew in February; click here for AVweb's exclusive video of the event.