Dec 9, 2014
X-47B May Begin Automated Aerial Refueling Demonstrations Next Year
Thusfar, the Navy had used a surrogate aircraft for AAR testing.
The service in June 2014 awarded a contract modification to Northrop Grumman for aerial refueling research, development, test and evaluation efforts at Naval Air Station Patuxent River in Maryland
The X-47B is the Navy’s first carrier-based drone, capable of almost completely autonomous operations even as the ship moves throughout the seas. The stealthy, tailless aircraft can take off, conduct surveillance and land back on the carrier using a combination of algorithms and sensors that allow it to land on the runway with precision. It first showcased that ability in May 2013 during sea trials on the USS George H.W. Bush when it successfully completed its first touch-and-go and arrested landings.
In August 2014, it returned to the carrier deck once again for its first cooperative flight with a manned aircraft. This time, it flew in pattern with an F-18 Hornet over the USS Theodore Roosevelt.