U.S. Navy Sailors assist with the onload of the X-47B Unmanned Combat Air System (UCAS) demonstrator aboard the aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75). Photo: U.S. Navy

As China starts landing jets on its first aircraft carrier, the U.S. Navy is preparing to test take offs and landings of carrier-based unmanned aircraft, a first for the Navy.

Sailors aboard the aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75) loaded a Northrop Grummen X-47B Unmanned Combat Air System demonstrator that arrived by barge Nov. 26 from Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Md. Truman will be the first aircraft carrier to host test operations for an unmanned aircraft.

“Bringing the X-47B aboard Truman is a big milestone for the program,” said Cmdr. Kevin Watkins, N-UCAS’s flight test director,. “We’ve been testing the aircraft for the last several years and to finally put it on a ship is so exciting. If these tests are successful, they will prove that the future for unmanned aircraft is wide open.”

A Navy X-47B Unmanned Combat Air System Demonstration aircraft takes off and flies for the first time Feb. 4, 2011, at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif. The Northrop Grumman-built aircraft flew for 29 minutes during the flight test.

The X-47B, which boasts a wingspan of more than 62 feet (wider than that of an F/A-18 Super Hornet), is hoping to demonstrate seamless integration into carrier flight deck operations through various tests. During each demonstration, the X-47B will be controlled remotely via a hand-held control display.

The U.S. Navy says the tests will be conducted over a three week period which will include in-port and underway demonstrations aboard Truman.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_0U5bs05Tko[/youtube]
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