May 15 - The US Navy's first sea-based, unmanned attack aircraft has been launched successfully from an aircraft-carrier at sea for the first time. The pilotless X-47B, developed by the navy and Northrop Grumman, is designed to take off, fly and land autonomously for missions the navy says will change the nature of sea-based warfare.
Under the control of a mission operator onboard the USS George HW Bush, naval observers say Northrop Grumman's X-47 B performed exactly as planned. The X-47B is the first pilotless aircraft designed to operate from the sea. It's regarded asa prototype for carrier-based planes of ther future Take-off, landing, in-flight refuelling and the deployment of weapons is controlled by a computer programme. Inflight alterations to pre-programmed instructions are made with the click of a computer mouse. The aircraft can fly at altitudes exceeding 15,000 feet and can conduct surveillance and strike missions within a radius of 1500 nautical miles. After 65 minutes in the air, the flight concluded with a pre-programmed landing at a nearby coast naval base. The next test will come later this year, when the navy attempts to land it on a moving carrier, regarded as a challenge for pilots, let alone unmanned drones.