The X-47B Unmanned Combat Air System Demonstrator (UCAS-D) returned to the USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN-71) Sunday, August 17th to demonstrate CVN cooperative flight operations compatibility with a VX-23 F-18C by performing multiple arrested landings, catapults, flight deck taxi, and deck refueling operations. The Bay Net was an observer on the carrier during the operations.
Originally ‘Navy 1’ was to be joined by a second UCAS-D however, that air vehicle developed technical problems shortly after taking off from Naval Air Station Patuxent River and had burn off fuel before returning to land.
The VX-23 F-18C ‘Salty Dog 400’ was launched from catapult 2 followed a few minutes later by ‘Salty Dog 123’ an F-18F. The X-47B was then launched on catapult 1 after the Super Hornet chase airplane.
The X-47B then performed a ‘bolter’ before making an arrested landing and folding its wings while clearing the landing area for both Hornets to land.
According to Navy officials, “The deck-based operator used newly developed deck handling control to manually move the aircraft out of the way.” They also reported “This cooperative launch and recovery sequence was repeated multiple times over the course of the planned test period. The X-47B performed multiple arrested landings, catapults, flight deck taxiing and deck refueling operations.”
At a press conference in the hangar bay, Captain Capt. Beau Duarte, program manager for the Navy’s Unmanned Carrier Aviation office told those assembled, “Today we showed that the X-47B could take off, land, and fly in the carrier pattern with manned aircraft while maintaining normal flight deck operations. This is key for the future Carrier Air Wing.”
Rear Admiral Mathias Winter, Program Executive Officer for Unmanned Aviation and Strike Weapons, said “the X-47B’s air vehicle performance, testing efficiency and safety technologies and procedures developed and tested throughout the program’s execution have paved the way for the Navy’s future carrier-based unmanned system capability.”
The carrier was also hosting Hornets from Naval Air Station Oceana-based VFA-106, the east coast Fleet Replacement Squadron (FRS) whose mission is to train Navy and Marine Corps F/A-18 replacement pilots and Weapons Systems Operators (WSO). The aircraft were aboard so pilots could get experience landing on an aircraft carrier, not related to the X-47B work.