An X-47B unmanned combat air system demonstrator prepares to execute a touch-and-go landing on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier George H.W. Bush on Friday in the Atlantic Ocean. This is the first time any unmanned aircraft has completed a touch-and-go landing at sea. (MC2 Timothy Walter / Navy)
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The Navy’s unmanned carrier-based jet demonstrator continued racking up milestones late last week, beginning a series of touch-and-go landing operations Friday aboard the aircraft carrier George H.W. Bush in the Atlantic Ocean.
The touch-and-gos came days after the X-47B unmanned combat air system demonstrator’s historic takeoff from Bush. Don Blottenberger, deputy program manager for the UCAS-D, called the latest development “extremely fulfilling for the team” and said it was an indication that the unmanned jet is “set to demonstrate the final pieces of the demonstration.”
Those would include landing on a carrier — something that could take place this summer, Blottenberger told reporters after Tuesday’s takeoff. Arrested-landing tests are planned for Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Md., in the run-up to a carrier landing, the Navy said in a Friday news release announcing the touch-and-go tests.
“We are proud to be a part of another historic first for naval aviation,” Capt. Brian “Lex” Luther, commanding officer of the Bush, said in the release. “The landing was spot-on, and it’s impressive to witness the evolution of the carrier air wing.”
The two X-47Bs that make up the $1.5-billion, seven-year UCAS program are test vehicles only; there are no plans to use them operationally.