The X-47B Unmanned Combat Air System Demonstration team was honored by Aviation Week and Space Technology magazine as a winner of the publication’s prestigious Laureate Awards during a ceremony held March 6 in Washington, D.C.
Recognized for its work in the Aeronautics and Propulsion category, the X-47B UCAS-D team demonstrated the capability to operate a tailless, full-size Unmanned Air System in the carrier environment, a first for naval aviation.
“It has truly been a phenomenal year for this team,” said Rear Adm. Mat Winter, who oversees the Program Executive Office for Unmanned Aviation and Strike Weapons. “This award is a well-deserved recognition for the X-47B team and underpins the historical significance and dedication of the hundreds of civilian, military and industry teammates who were instrumental in executing the technical achievements required to operate the first-ever carrier-capable UAS.”
Because of the UCAS-D team’s efforts, the X-47B conducted the first-ever launch and recovery of an unmanned air vehicle from a carrier at-sea. In 2013, the X-47B conducted eight catapult launches, 30 touch-and-goes and seven arrested landings while aboard USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77) and USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71).
“Our combined Navy and Northrop Grumman industry team is most deserving of this elite recognition for its tireless efforts to meet program objectives, while successfully demonstrating and maturing the critical technologies required for a carrier suitable, persistent unmanned air system,” said Capt. Beau Duarte, program manager for the Unmanned Carrier Aviation Program Office at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Md.
Duarte said the team continues to refine the concept of operations to fully demonstrate the effective integration of unmanned carrier-based aircraft within the current carrier environment to reduce technical risk for the follow-on Unmanned Carrier Launched Airborne Surveillance and Strike (UCLASS) program.
The X-47B demonstration activities have validated the feasibility to operate unmanned aircraft in the harsh carrier environment and has helped develop the concept of operations and demonstrate the required technologies for a future unmanned carrier-based system.
Established more than 50 years ago, the Aviation Week Laureate Awards recognize the accomplishments of individuals and teams in the aerospace, aviation and defense industry, according to the organization’s website. The finalists’ “achievements embody the spirit of exploration, innovation and vision that inspire others to strive for significant, broad-reaching progress in these fields,” the website said.