Want an X-47B?
Naval Air Systems Command officials said on Tuesday, April 14th, that there are no plans to extend the testing for its Unmanned Carrier Air Vehicle demonstrator (UCAS-D) program after this month’s planned autonomous aerial refueling (AAR) tests.
Known as Salty Dog 501 and 502, the two Northrop Grumman X-47B unmanned aerial vehicles will be sent to a museum or resigned to the Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group (AMARG) at Davis Monthan Air Force Base in Arizona.
According to USNI, NAVAIR said the scope of the planned testing included the catapult launch and arrested recovery aboard a Navy aircraft carrier — both which occurred on the USS George H.W. Bush (CVN-77) in 2013 — as well as an autonomous aerial refueling test.
Of course, not everyone is happy about the short life of the program or the UAV's themselves. “Our nation has made a sizeable investment in this demonstration program to date, and both air vehicles have consumed only a small fraction of their approved flying hours,” wrote Senate Armed Services Committee chair Sen. John McCain.
Capt. B.V. Duarte, program manager of NAVAIR’s PMA-268 that oversees UCAS-D and the Navy’s planned Unmanned Carrier Launched Surveillance and Strike (UCLASS) programs said the two X-47s had expended about 20 percent of the approved flight hours for the airframe but reiterated the difference in X-47B and the Navy’s current UCLASS concept would make further testing an expensive proposition. In fact, prohibitively expensive, he reiterated.
The autonomous aerial refueling tests are expected to happen April 15th, weather pending.