Skip to comments.Unmanned craft is set to launch from carrier Bush
Posted on 05/14/2013 5:23:59 AM PDT by csvset
A new era in naval aviation is set to launch from the aircraft carrier George H.W. Bush today, if all goes according to plan.
For the first time ever, the Navy plans to catapult an unmanned aerial vehicle off a carrier flight deck, marking a strategic technological shift in naval aviation.
The launch of the prototype X-47B from the Bush, steaming off the Virginia coast, follows months of shore-based launch tests at Patuxent River Naval Air Station in Maryland.
The objective: to show that automated aircraft can play an active role in air warfare operations at sea.
"The addition of unmanned aviation to this formidable, power projection team provides a complementary capability, which will ensure carrier naval aviation remains viable and relevant for decades to come," Rear Adm. Mat Winter, Program Executive Officer for Unmanned Aviation and Strike Weapons, wrote in a Navy blog Monday.
"It also shows our collective readiness within naval aviation to embrace these future opportunities to move forward with unmanned carrier aviation," he wrote. "This is a big deal!"
The X-47B, built by Northrop Grumman, is one of two prototypes that have been used in the tests at Patuxent River. The demonstrator crafts are not intended for operational use but are considered the precursors to unmanned planes that could enter service by the end of the decade.
While the craft is programmed to fly itself, an operator can modify the flight by sending digitized commands for it to do specific tasks, like climb to a specific altitude or head to a specific location. On deck, its steering and speed are manually controlled by an operator with a remote control.
After today's flight, the craft is to land at Patuxent River.
Dianna Cahn, 757-222-5846, firstname.lastname@example.org
Note that it is going to land at Pax River, not on the carrier. Carrier arrested landings are significantly more difficult than catapault launches.
They may use the “land carrier” at Pax river. They have a full catapult and arresting gear system installed there.
I was expecting to see a drone. This looks like it can deliver a much bigger payload.
But if it can’t land back on the carrier, it must have very limited applications. It looks too expensive to ditch at sea as part of its normal operation.
Story Number: NNS110705-06Release Date: 7/5/2011 12:11:00 PM
By Naval Air Systems Command Public Affairs
PATUXENT RIVER, Md. (NNS) -- A team from the Navy Unmanned Combat Air System program office (PMA-268) accomplished the first carrier touchdown of an F/A-18D surrogate aircraft, emulating an unmanned vehicle, using systems developed as part of the Unmanned Combat Air System Carrier Demonstration (UCAS-D) program on July 2.
The test, conducted on USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN-69), means the Navy is one step closer to demonstrating the first carrier-based recoveries and launches of an autonomous, low-observable relevant unmanned aircraft.
"What we saw here today is cutting edge technology for integrating digital control of autonomous carrier aircraft operations, and most importantly, the capability to automatically land an unmanned air system aboard an aircraft carrier," said Capt. Jaime Engdahl, N-UCAS Program Manager. "Successfully landing and launching a surrogate aircraft allows us to look forward to demonstrating that a tailless, strike-fighter-sized unmanned system can operate safely in the carrier environment."
Demonstrating the UCAS-D system with a carrier-based aircraft, the F/A-18D, significantly reduces risk of landing an unmanned system aboard the ship for the first time. The F/A-18 surrogate aircraft, provided by Air Test and Evaluation Squadron (VX) 23, is controlled with actual avionics and software that are being incorporated on X-47B UCAS-D aircraft.
"Surrogate testing allows us to evaluate ship systems, avionics systems, and early versions of the unmanned vehicle software with a pilot in the loop for safety," said Glenn Colby, team lead for UCAS-D Aviation/Ship Integration. "With this we can verify our interfaces and functionality while minimizing the risk to an unmanned vehicle."
Along with the F/A-18, the test team employed a King Air surrogate aircraft operated by Air-Tec, Inc. According to Colby, the King Air gives the team a low-cost test bed to evaluate the ability of the UCAS-D avionics and ship systems to properly adhere to existing carrier operations procedures. PMA-268 is using the King Air to test all of the system functionality that does not require actually landing on the ship.
"The most important thing we have done is adapted the ship's systems to handle a vehicle without a pilot, then seamlessly integrated it into carrier operations," said Rob Fox, UCAS-D Aviation/Ship Integration deputy team lead. "We're using both current aircraft carrier hardware and software systems and processes, and introducing new systems and processes to accommodate an unmanned system."
The vast majority of today's carrier flight operations are flown manually and visually by Naval Aviators. The pilot gives the ship information about the aircraft over the radio; all air traffic control instructions are by voice and even a good portion of navigation data has to be read over the air by the ship. The purpose of the UCAS-D integration effort is to digitize the communications and navigation information flow to incorporate capabilities required for UAS flight operations aboard a carrier, with minimal impact to existing hardware, training and procedures.
"This test period shows us very clearly that the carrier segment hardware and software, and the Precision Global Positioning System (PGPS) landing technologies are mature and ready to support actual unmanned operations with the X-47B," said Engdahl.
To support an autonomous vehicle, PMA-268 has modified shipboard equipment so that the UCAS-D X-47B air vehicle, mission operator and ship operators are on the same digital network. For current fleet aircraft, the Landing Signal Officer (LSO), who is charged with safe recovery of aircraft aboard the ship, uses voice commands and visual signals to communicate with a pilot on final approach. Since a UAS cannot reliably respond to voice and visual signals, the LSO's equipment communicates directly with the aircraft through the digital network via a highly reliable interface. Similar digital communication capability has been integrated with the ship's primary flight control ("tower") and Carrier Air Traffic Control Center (CATCC) facilities.
Most importantly, the UAS operator's equipment, installed in one of the carrier's ready rooms, is integrated with the very same network.
In addition to communications, an unmanned system requires highly precise and reliable navigation to operate around the ship. This first arrested landing of the F/A-18D surrogate aircraft aboard the Eisenhower was enabled by integrating Precision Global Positioning System (PGPS) capabilities into the ship and the aircraft.
According to Engdahl, these tests demonstrate that PGPS landing technologies and the carrier segment hardware and software are mature and ready to support actual unmanned operations with the X-47B. In addition, these capabilities have the potential to make manned aircraft operations safer and more efficient.
"Our team has worked vigorously over the past five years to modify and develop systems required to operate unmanned aircraft around and aboard a carrier," said Adam Anderson, team lead for UCAS-D Aviation/Ship Integration System Build, who has worked on the program since 2006. "This was a very complex and challenging task that required innovative, hard-working and dedicated individuals to get the job done."
The first experiments supporting unmanned carrier operations were conducted in 2002 followed by at-sea testing of a King Air in 2005. With the basic concept proven, the UCAS-D team began the detailed design of the carrier integration in 2007. The PMA-268/NAVAIR team worked closely with experts from PEO (Carriers) and the Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) to determine the details of system installation on a carrier, while working to minimize impact to ongoing missions and capabilities aboard the ship. Initial capability of the ship equipment was verified in January 2010 during testing aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln.
In fall 2010, ship modifications began on the Eisenhower. The UCAS-D team worked closely with ship's company personnel to lessen disruption to other activities required for normal operations and maintenance of the ship. Initial surrogate testing took place during the ship's sea trials the week of June 13, which validated the system's readiness for carrier landings.
"This was truly a team effort with our industry partners, including Northrop Grumman, Rockwell Collins, Honeywell, L-3 Communications, SAIC, ARINC and Sierra Nevada Corporation, PEO Carriers, NAVSEA and, of course, the crew of the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower," Engdahl added. "The exceptional support and collaboration of the entire team has set us up very well to achieve our ultimate milestone �autonomous landing of an actual unmanned, low-observable relevant aircraft on the aircraft carrier in 2013."
The UCAS-D program continues ship integration and X-47B flight test activities in preparation for sea trials in 2013. Flight testing is underway at Edwards Air Force Base and will transition to Pax River later this year.
By the way, ACLS achieved IOC back in 1963 aboard USS Midway.
Programmed with the GPS coordinates of Tea Party HQ, no doubt.
Story Number: NNS130514-11Release Date: 5/14/2013 12:30:00 PM
From Naval Air Systems Command Public Affairs
USS GEORGE H.W. BUSH, at sea (NNS) -- The X-47B Unmanned Combat Air System demonstrator (UCAS-D) completed its first ever carrier-based catapult launch from USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77) off the coast of Virginia today.
"Today we saw a small, but significant pixel in the future picture of our Navy as we begin integration of unmanned systems into arguably the most complex warfighting environment that exists today: the flight deck of a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier," said Vice Adm. David Buss, commander, Naval Air Forces, the Navy's "Air Boss".
The unmanned aircraft launched from the deck of George H.W. Bush at 11:18 a.m. It executed several planned low approaches to the carrier and safely transited across the Chesapeake Bay to land at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Md., after a 65-minute flight.
Buss called the launch a "watershed event" in naval aviation and said he expects that decades from now, a future "Air Boss" will have a picture of the X-47B launching from Bush behind his or her desk just as he has a picture of aviation pioneer Eugene Ely's first-ever landing on the deck of a ship in 1911 behind his desk today.
"This ship and her crew continuously meet the challenges placed before them," said the ship's commanding officer, Capt. Brian E. Luther. "The successful launch of the X-47B is yet another first on USS George H.W. Bush. We were excited to host the experimental aircraft, and are proud to know we have played a part in a significant milestone in naval aviation."
Completing another important first for the UCAS-D program, the team demonstrated the ability to precisely navigate the X-47B within the controlled airspace around an aircraft carrier at sea and seamlessly pass control of the air vehicle from a "mission operator" aboard the carrier to one located in the Mission Test Control Center at NAS Patuxent River for landing.
"The flight today demonstrated that the X-47B is capable of operation from a carrier, hand-off from one mission control station to another, flight through the national airspace, and recovery at another location without degradation in safety or precision," said Matt Funk, lead test engineer for the Navy UCAS program.
Prior to the catapult launch on Tuesday, the UCAS test team also conducted deck-handling and ship-integration testing to demonstrate the capability to safely operate the X-47B in the dynamic, unforgiving environment of an aircraft carrier flight deck.
"This event is a testament to the teamwork, professionalism and expertise of everyone involved with X-47B program," said Rear Adm. Mat Winter, program executive officer for Unmanned Aviation and Strike Weapons. "Their work will positively impact future unmanned aviation development for years to come."
Over the next few weeks, the X-47B aircraft will fly approaches to the ship multiple times and eventually land on the pitching flight deck, said Navy UCAS Program Manager Capt. Jaime Engdahl.
The UCAS team will conduct additional shore-based testing with the X-47B at NAS Patuxent River in the coming months before its final carrier-based arrested landing demonstration later this summer.