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Social Media Release -- Northrop Grumman-built U.S. Navy X-47B Unmanned Combat Aircraft Completes Historic First Flight

First-of-its-Kind, Tailless Aircraft Moves Closer to Carrier Trials in 2013

Core News Facts:

  • On Feb. 4, 2011, Northrop Grumman Corporation (NYSE:NOC) and the U.S. Navy successfully conducted the historic first flight of the X-47B Unmanned Combat Air System Demonstration (UCAS-D) aircraft.
  • The flight, which was conducted under hazy skies at Edwards Air Force Base (AFB), Calif., began at 2:09 p.m. PST and lasted 29 minutes.
  • The flight is a critical first step for the Navy/Northrop Grumman UCAS-D team toward demonstrating that a tailless, fighter-sized unmanned system can safely land and take off from the deck of a U.S. aircraft carrier.
  • The flight provided test data that will contribute to the verification and validation of the X-47B's air vehicle's guidance and navigation software, and the aerodynamic control of its tailless design.
  • First flight represents the culmination, verification and certification of pre-flight system data collected and analyzed by both the Navy and Northrop Grumman. Prior to the flight, the test team demonstrated airworthiness of the airframe through proof load testing; propulsion system reliability through accelerated mission tests; software maturity and reliability through rigorous simulations; and overall system reliability through low speed and high speed taxi tests.
  • The X-47B aircraft will remain at Edwards AFB for flight envelope expansion before transitioning to Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Md. later this year. There, the system will undergo additional tests to validate its readiness to begin testing in the maritime and carrier environment.
  • The UCAS-D program is preparing the X-47B for carrier trials in 2013.


  • "First flight represents the compilation of numerous tests to validate the airworthiness of the aircraft, and the robustness and reliability of the software that allows it to operate as an autonomous system and eventually have the ability to take-off and land aboard an aircraft carrier." – Capt. Jaime Engdahl, UCAS-D program manager, U.S. Navy

  • "First flight is a giant confidence boost to the entire UCAS-D industry team. It provides us with important momentum as we now to turn to demonstrating that this first-of-its-kind air system can not only fly, but also integrate smoothly with carrier operations." – Capt. Jaime Engdahl, UCAS-D program manager, U.S. Navy

  • "Designing a tailless, fighter-sized unmanned aircraft from a clean sheet is no small feat. Commitment, collaboration and uncompromising technical excellence among the Navy, Northrop Grumman and the UCAS-D team industry partners made today's flight a reality." – Janis Pamiljans, vice president and UCAS-D program manager, Northrop Grumman.

  • "The Northrop Grumman-led UCAS-D industry team is honored to have given wings to the Navy's vision for exploring unmanned carrier aviation." – Janis Pamiljans, vice president and UCAS-D program manager, Northrop Grumman.

Program Background

  • The Navy awarded the UCAS-D prime contract to Northrop Grumman in August 2007. The six-year contract includes the development of two X-47B fighter-sized aircraft. 
  • The program will demonstrate the first-ever carrier launches and recoveries by an autonomous, unmanned aircraft with a low-observable-relevant planform. Autonomous aerial refueling will also be performed after carrier integration and at-sea trials.
  • Northrop Grumman's industry team includes GKN Aerospace, Lockheed Martin, Pratt & Whitney, Eaton, General Electric, Hamilton Sundstrand, Dell, Honeywell, Goodrich, Moog, Wind River, Parker Aerospace, and Rockwell Collins.

Northrop Grumman Boilerplate:

  • Northrop Grumman Corporation is a leading global security company whose 120,000 employees provide innovative systems, products, and solutions in aerospace, electronics, information systems, shipbuilding and technical services to government and commercial customers worldwide.   Please visit for more information.
CONTACT:  Brooks McKinney, APR
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          Cyndi Wegerbauer
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UCAS First Flight
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