The first unmanned aircraft designed as a carrier-based strike jet is almost ready to take to the air for the first time, Navy officials have confirmed.
Northrop Grumman’s X-47B Unmanned Combat Air System Demonstration drone has been performing taxi tests for several weeks at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., as engineers run the aircraft through a long series of pre-flight tests and checks.
Program officials had hoped for a flight by mid-December, but weather and other factors have delayed the event. Officials were reluctant to specify an exact date, but are hopeful the flight will take place before the end of the year.
Two X-47Bs have been built by Northrop’s Aerospace Systems sector under a 2007 development contract. The stealthy aircraft, which resembles a miniature B-2 bomber — also built by Northrop — is intended to test the concept of operating a small, unmanned, combat jet from aircraft carriers.
When I first posted a pic of this in December of 2008, the first flight was scheduled for fall of 2009.