2013年5月19日日曜日

X47B Catapult Launch at Air Carrier

X47Bが空母上でカタパルト発艦に成功した。
 米海軍は、空母に搭載するため開発中のコウモリ型をした無人機「X47B」
の試作機を、洋上の空母の甲板から発進させるテスト飛行に初めて成功した
と発表した。2020年までの配備開始を目指している。

国防総省
・中国やイランによる妨害を念頭に同機を開発。

X47B
・F35の2倍近い航続距離(40,000ft)。
・ペイロード4,500ポンド
・空中給油可
・Full spectrum broadband stealth
 電磁波レーダ、赤外線レーダ等からの遮蔽機能(?)

X47B試験飛行
・米バージニア州沖の空母George H.W. Bushから、通常の艦載機と同じ
 ようにカタパルトを使って発進。
・約1時間飛行し、メリーランド州の海軍基地飛行場に着陸。

X47Bは、空母から空母の速度と横風等を受信し、発艦したようだ。
コンピュータによる自動操縦と人間が介在したマニュアル操縦に対応でき
るように設計。
海軍の操縦士(?)が操縦。

2013年内に、アレスティングワイヤによる着艦試験を行う予定。

UAVの操縦はCIAとの報道があったが、X-47Bに関しては、海軍が行う
ようだ。
当初の仕様では、発着艦に加え、レーザー光線と高出力マイクロ波発生
装置により、敵ミサイルや通信施設を破壊するようだ。航続時間も
50-100時間。
F35に比べて、工程はそんなに遅れていないようだ。
無人で、航続距離が長く、爆撃も可能となれば、戦争ゲームが頻繁に
発生するかもしれない。露では、通信妨害装置を売っているから、中国が
複製品を作ってイランやパキスタン、北朝鮮に売り込むか。

米海軍 X-47B導入
X47B 初飛行成功
米無人機 倍増へ
Drone Over JFK Airport


X-47B UCAS-D First Catapult Launch from USS George H.W. Bush (CVN-77)


X-47 First Catapult Launch At Pax River


Navy X-47B - Stealth Combat Jet Fighter


---空母搭載の無人機、発艦飛行成功 米海軍、中国念頭に開発---
2013年5月15日 11時57分
http://www.tokyo-np.co.jp/s/article/2013051501001121.html

 【ワシントン共同】米海軍は14日、空母に搭載するため開発中のコウモリ型をした無人機「X47B」の試作機を、洋上の空母の甲板から発進させるテスト飛行に初めて成功したと発表した。2020年までの配備開始を目指している。
 国防総省は、米軍を自国近海に近づかせないようにする中国やイランを念頭に同機を開発。
 試験飛行では、米バージニア州沖の空母から、通常の艦載機と同じようにカタパルト(射出機)を使って発進し、約1時間飛行した上で、メリーランド州の基地に着陸した。
 米メディアによると、X47Bは、米軍が開発中のステルス戦闘機F35の2倍近い航続距離がある。


---Drone is catapulted off aircraft carrier in milestone flight test---
By W.J. Hennigan, Los Angeles Times
May 15, 2013
http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-navy-drone-catapult-20130515,0,2940039.story

The X-47B, a stealthy bat-winged aircraft seen as the next step in drone technology, flies for about an hour before landing in Maryland.

In a historic feat for the U.S. Navy, a stealthy bat-winged drone was catapulted off an aircraft carrier's flight deck before it soared above the Atlantic and into the blue sky.

On Tuesday morning, the X-47B experimental drone was launched from the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier George H.W. Bush as it floated off the Virginia coast.

The test flight was seen as a milestone in drone technology and the program, which has been eight years in the making.

"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 war-fighting environment that exists today: the flight deck of a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier," Vice Adm. David Buss, commander of naval air forces and known as the Navy's "air boss," said in a statement.

The radar-evading drone was launched from the deck at 11:18 a.m. Eastern time. It executed several maneuvers designed to simulate tasks that the aircraft would have to perform when it lands on a ship. Then, after about 65 minutes of flight, the Navy said the drone safely flew across Chesapeake Bay to land at Naval Air Station Patuxent River in Maryland.

The X-47B, built by Northrop Grumman Corp., is designed to land on the deck of an aircraft carrier - one of aviation's most difficult maneuvers - but that was not part of Tuesday's test.

Carl Johnson, Northrop's X-47B program manager, compared Tuesday's launch with "the Navy's first catapult of a manned aircraft, which occurred in Nov. 1915 from the armored cruiser USS North Carolina. We are delighted to help launch this new era of naval capability."

The Navy has said it expects the X-47B to land on a carrier this year, relying on pinpoint GPS coordinates and advanced avionics. The carrier's computers digitally transmit the carrier's speed, crosswinds and other data to the drone as it approaches from miles away.

The X-47B's technology could mark a paradigm shift in warfare because the drone is capable of autonomous flight.

Currently, combat drones are controlled remotely by a human pilot. But the X-47B is designed to carry out a combat mission controlled entirely by a computer. A human pilot would design its flight path and send it on its way; a computer program would guide it from a ship to the target and back.

Peter W. Singer, author of "Wired for War," a book about robotic warfare, said the X-47B's flight off the carrier gave a glimpse of the promise of drone technology.

It's "a historic moment for aviation," Singer said. "Just one after another, they keep knocking down more and more of those things that the naysayers said never could be done" with drones.

What also sets this drone apart from most of today's combat drones is that it is stealthy and jet-powered.

The X-47B, which resembles a miniature B-2 stealth bomber, has a 62-foot wingspan and can fly higher than 40,000 feet. It has a range of more than 2,400 miles and can reach high subsonic speeds.

The drone is designed to fly farther and stay in the air longer than existing aircraft because it does not depend on a human pilot's endurance. Navy fighter pilots may fly missions that last as long as 10 hours. Current drones can fly for three times that long.

The X-47B is an experimental jet - that's what the X stands for - and is designed to demonstrate new technology, such as automated takeoffs, landings and refueling. The drone also has a weapons bay with a payload capacity of 4,500 pounds, but the Navy said it has no plans to arm the aircraft.

The first X-47B had its maiden flight from Edwards Air Force Base in 2011, where it continued testing until last year when it was trucked from the Mojave Desert to Naval Air Station Patuxent River. The drone's design was so startling that motorists passing it by on the highway thought it was a UFO.

Over the last year, the Navy conducted shore-based catapults at Patuxent River, Md. It also conducted deck-handling and ship-integration testing to demonstrate the capability to safely operate the X-47B on an aircraft carrier flight deck.

There were two X-47Bs developed and built under a contract that has escalated to $1.4 billion. They were constructed behind barbed-wire fences and double security doors at Northrop's expansive facility in Palmdale.

The Navy currently flies MQ-8B Fire Scout helicopter drones, also built by Northrop, but their range is more limited and the aircraft are far slower. The Navy wants to buy a fleet of fixed-wing drones within the next seven years.


---U.S. Navy makes aviation history with carrier drone launch---
By David Alexander
ABOARD THE USS GEORGE H.W. BUSH | Tue May 14, 2013 5:05pm EDT
http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/05/14/us-usa-navy-drone-idUSBRE94D00M20130514

(Reuters) - The U.S. Navy made aviation history on Tuesday by launching an unmanned jet off an aircraft carrier for the first time, taking an important step toward expanded use of drones by the American military with an eye on possible rivals like China and Iran.

The bat-winged X-47B stealth drone roared off the USS George H.W. Bush near the coast of Virginia and flew a series of pre-programmed maneuvers around the ship before veering away toward a Naval air station in Maryland where it was scheduled to land.

"This is really a red-letter day. May 14 we all saw history happen" said Rear Admiral Ted Branch, the Atlantic naval air commander. "It's a marker ... between naval aviation as we've known it and the future of naval aviation with the launch of the X-47B."

Because of its stealth potential and a range nearly twice that of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, the X-47B and its successors are seen as a potential answer to the threat posed by medium-range anti-ship missiles developed by China and Iran, defense analysts said.

The missiles and other so-called anti-access, area-denial weapons would force U.S. aircraft carriers to operate far enough from shore that piloted aircraft would have to undergo refueling to carry out their missions, leaving them vulnerable to attack.

But with a range of 2,000 nautical miles, an unmanned jet like the X-47B could give the Navy both a long-range strike and reconnaissance capability.

"That makes it strategically very important," said Anthony Cordesman, a senior defense analyst at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. He described the drone as "essentially a really long-range stealth system."

"As we rebalance to the Pacific, the Navy is going to increasingly need range," said Brien Alkire, a senior researcher at RAND's Project Air Force. "That's something an unmanned system can bring them that they don't really have right now and give them the ability to operate from a good standoff range.

The X-47B, one of only two demonstrator models made by Northrop Grumman Corp, carries the equivalent of two precision-guided bombs. It was catapulted from the aircraft carrier on Tuesday using the same sling-shot system that sends manned aircraft aloft.

LANDING ON BOARD

It is scheduled to undergo two weeks of testing aboard the carrier leading up to a landing on the ship, in which a plane's tailhook grabs a wire that will slow it and keep it from plunging overboard.

While the carrier takeoff represented a significant milestone, defense analysts are focused on the next step, when the Navy attempts to use what has been learned with the X-47B to develop an unmanned aircraft for actual operations.

"The X-47B is a great story," said Mark Gunzinger, a defense analyst at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments think-tank. "It's a milestone and a step forward for unmanned, carrier-based aviation. But I think the real story is what's next. How do we operationalize this capability?"

Future variants of the drone could probably be designed for full-spectrum broadband stealth, which means it would be hard for radar to locate it, analysts said. That level of stealth would be one of the drone's major defenses.

U.S. drones currently in use in places like Afghanistan and the tribal areas of Pakistan, like the Predator and Reaper, are not up against any air defenses and are not stealthy aircraft.

Because of its long range and the Navy's need to have it take off and land, day and night, from an aircraft carrier, the X-47B has been designed to operate with far greater autonomy than the remotely piloted aircraft currently in use.

That has raised concerns among some organizations worried about the heavy U.S. reliance on drones in warfare and the rising use of autonomous robots by the American military.

Human Rights Watch, in a report launching its recent campaign against "killer robots," cited the X-47B as one of several weapons that represent a transition toward development of fully autonomous arms that require little human intervention.

A follow-on program - known as the Unmanned Carrier Launched Airborne Surveillance and Strike System, or UCLASS - is expected to build on what was learned with the X-47B to produce operational aircraft.

An initial request for design proposals is expected to be issued by the Navy some time this month. Other aircraft makers, from Lockheed Martin Corp and Boeing Co to General Atomics - are expected to compete to participate.


---Navy’s Historic Drone Launch From an Aircraft Carrier Has an Asterisk---
By Spencer Ackerman
05.14.13
3:54 PM
http://www.wired.com/dangerroom/2013/05/drone-carrier/

ABOARD THE U.S.S. GEORGE H.W. BUSH - At 11:19 a.m. today, for the first time in history, a plane without a pilot in it executed one of the most complex missions in aviation: launching off an aircraft carrier at sea. Only the Navy can’t yet land that drone aboard the U.S.S. George H.W. Bush, an even harder but necessary maneuver if large drones are really going to operate off carriers.

On a crisp, bright and nearly cloudless day, about 100 miles off the Virginia coast, the crew of the Bush and the team behind the highly autonomous X-47B loaded up the deck’s second catapult with the drone and shot it off into the sky above the eastern Atlantic. The drone - which has its own callsign, “Salty Dog 502″ - turned downwind and passed over the ship twice, first from 1000 feet overhead and then from 60 feet overhead, before flying back to dry land in Maryland. The launch went exactly as the Navy hoped.

With that, the era of the drone took a major step toward patrolling the skies above the world’s waterways. It’s something the Navy hopes will have big implications for supplementing manned fighter jets in a carrier air wing, providing both persistent surveillance far out at sea and ultimately firing weapons in highly defended airspace that might mean death for human pilots.

Senior Navy officers openly likened the X-47B’s launch off the Bush to the first-ever launch of a plane off the U.S.S. Birmingham in 1910. “It’s one small step for man,” remarked Rear Adm. Matt Winter, the Navy’s chief program officer for unmanned systems, “and one significant technical step for unmanned-kind.”

Winter is right: the launch is legitimately historic. No nation possesses a drone that can operate off the deck of an aircraft carrier, a complex and dangerous environment that requires years of pilot training and constant deck-crew coordination. When the X-47B shot from the catapult off the Bush on Tuesday, it took a big step toward proving the U.S. will be the first. The X-47B is just a demonstrator aircraft: it will soon give way to the Unmanned Carrier-Launched Airborne Surveillance and Strike (UCLASS) robot that the Navy wants to integrate into its carrier air wings by the end of the decade. Today, the X-47B demonstrator demonstrated a lot.

But the X-47B, a Northrop Grumman creation, is a step ahead of other drones in another way. Almost all drones of its size - with a 62-foot wingspan, it’s bigger than a Predator and about on the scale of a manned F/A-18 Super Hornet - are flown by human beings. Those human beings might be thousands of miles away from the drone, in a cramped and freezing-cold Ground Control Station, but they have instruments that give them physical, real-time control of how the drone flies and what it sees - a very remote cockpit. The X-47B is different: its flight plan is pre-programmed, a matter of an algorithm, and the drone executes it autonomously, relying on GPS. The human back on board the ship only overrides it if something goes wrong.

“The Navy’s model is different from the Air Force’s,” said Rear Adm. Ted Branch, the commander of Naval Air Forces Atlantic. “We don’t have someone actively flying this machine with a stick and a throttle. We fly it with a mouse and a keyboard.” In military nomenclature, the Air Force has drone pilots; the Navy has drone operators.

Today’s launch has been planned for months and anticipated for years. Earlier this month, at the Navy’s aviation test hub in Maryland, known as Pax River, the X-47B touched down and caught the arresting wire on a mock carrier deck. Catching the wire, or the “Trap,” is as difficult as it is necessary to keep a plane from careening off the carrier and into the water. While it was a positive sign that the Navy’s new robot demonstrator could do it, the X-47B’s successful Trap catch was still on dry land.

And so it was today. The Navy programmed the X-47B to take off from the Bush and land back at Pax River. Navy officials, including X-47B program manager Capt. Jamie Engdahl, say that the X-47B will actually conduct its first carrier landing at sea around July or August. Engdahl and other Navy officials say they still have to perform more tests before the X-47B is capable of landing on a carrier, particularly to ensure that the robot’s so-called “relative navigation” systems - which ensure it can catch a moving target like a ship at sea - can place the drone precisely where it needs to be on the carrier deck to catch the Trap. “We did not accomplish all the land-based field testing,” Winter told reporters. Engdahl said he opted not to wait.

It remains to be seen whether the Navy will invite the same media spectacle aboard a carrier for the drone’s first landing as it did for the first launch. The Navy paused normal flight operations aboard the Bush while reporters helicoptered out to film the event. Navy officers and Northrop Grumman officials cheered when the X-47B launched and then flew back over the ship. But no one would commit to letting the media return for the carrier landing, suggesting the Navy doesn’t have total confidence in the demonstrator’s ability to execute among the hardest maneuvers in aviation while news cameras roll.

The X-47B has had some difficulty making the Trap on dry land, which helps explain the Navy’s reluctance to bring the robot down onto the Bush today. But difficulties catching the arresting gear ought to be expected: the Navy is literally doing something no drone has ever done before. Failure is a necessary component of testing. Don Blottenberger, one of Engdahl’s deputies, said the drone probably has maybe 10 more land-based landing tests at Pax River before it’s ready for its carrier landing.

After the carrier landing, the next step for the $1.2 billion program is to execute an autonomous mid-air refueling mission, also scheduled for this year. Only it won’t happen with the X-47B exactly: a Lear Jet will be specially equipped with the X-47B’s software and some of its hardware. After that, Blottenberger said, “We’re gonna be done.” The X-47B program will stand down and the UCLASS program will begin. The X-47B may end up in a museum.

The carrier launch is an important demonstration. The forthcoming carrier landing will ultimately prove that drones can join an aircraft carrier airwing. For Engdahl - who ended his pre-launch speech with an enthusiastic “God bless America!” - the difference doesn’t ultimately matter to the robot.

“It’s a UAV,” Engdahl said, using the acronym for Unmanned Aerial Vehicle. “It doesn’t know it hasn’t been landing on the boat for the last six months.”

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