The US Navy has started taxi trials of the Northrop Grumman X-47B unmanned combat air system demonstrator (UCAS-D) onboard the aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman. The USN started ship-board testing on 9 December.
Sailors onboard the massive 104,000t warship are controlling the X-47B on the flight deck using an arm-mounted control display unit (CDU).
"With the CDU, we followed the aircraft director's signals to move the aircraft left or right, over the arresting wire, to and from the catapults and to various spotting positions," says Gerrit Everson, one of the X-47B operators. "These tests proved that we can taxi the X-47B with the precision that an aircraft carrier's flight deck requires."
The tests are important because the USN must prove that the X-47B is compatible with the ship's flight deck. "A carrier environment can only be simulated to a certain extent on land, so we have to take our time when it comes to evolutions like this," Lt Cdr Larry Tarver, the Truman's aircraft handling officer.
"An X-47B has never operated on an aircraft carrier," Tarver says. "Every evolution with this aircraft is taken step-by-step because we don't fully know how it will react to a carrier environment."
The X-47B is scheduled to complete taxi testing before Truman returns to its homeport in Naval Station Norfolk in Virginia. The aircraft is expected to fly off the carrier next year.