Northrop Grumman Validates Design Of X-47B With Low-Speed Wind Tunnel Tests
Northrop Grumman has used a series of low-speed wind tunnel tests to successfully validate the aerodynamic design of the X-47B unmanned combat aerial vehicle it is developing for the Joint Unmanned Combat Air Systems (J-UCAS) Concept Demonstration Program.
The tests, which used a high-fidelity scale model, were completed ahead of schedule on September 22. They were conducted at Northrop Grumman's low-speed wind tunnel in Hawthorne, Calif. as part of the company's $1.04 billion contract for the operational assessment phase of the J-UCAS Concept Demonstration Program.
"The test data we gathered from more than 750 test runs confirmed the excellent low-speed stability and control characteristics of our X-47B design," said Scott Winship, Northrop Grumman's J-UCAS program manager.
"These characteristics are fundamental to X-47B's success in an aircraft carrier environment that requires frequent catapult launches and arrested recoveries."
The low-speed tests were the first in a series of wind tunnel tests planned under the J-UCAS operational assessment program to characterize the X-47B's low and high-speed flight dynamics and to assess its overall flight performance.
Under Northrop Grumman's current J-UCAS contract, the company will produce and flight-test three X-47B unmanned demonstration vehicles with associated mission-control stations and logistical support elements. Flight demonstrations are expected to begin in 2007.
The U.S. Department of Defense established the J-UCAS program in the fall of 2003 to demonstrate the technical feasibility, military utility and operational value of developing a network of high performance, survivable, and weaponized unmanned aerial vehicles.
These air vehicles will conduct a variety of 21st century combat missions for both the U.S. Air Force and the U.S. Navy including precision targeting and strike; persistent intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance; suppression of enemy air defenses; and electronic attack.
Northrop Grumman's efforts to design, develop and produce an unmanned combat air system that satisfies the operational requirements of both services is managed by the company's Integrated Systems sector.
The X-47B J-UCAS concept builds on the company's highly successful X-47A Pegasus program, and extensive experience with autonomous flight control systems, including thousands of flight hours by its combat-proven RQ-4 Global Hawk unmanned reconnaissance system and the RQ-8 Fire Scout vertical takeoff and landing tactical unmanned system.
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