Navy: X-47B Drone Won’t Be a Killer

Navy: X-47B Drone Won’t Be a Killer

The Navy’s X-47B can take off, soar and land on an aircraft carrier without the aid of a human, as it demonstrated so well in July when it touched down on the deck of the USS George H.W. Bush.

But one thing the bat-winged, tailless Navy drone cannot do – and is not intended to do – is kill anyone, the program manager for the Navy’s Unmanned Combat Air Systems program manager.

At least not yet. According to the Naval Air Systems Command, the UCAS program is intended to develop a carrier-suitable UAV “in support of persistent, penetrating surveillance, and penetrating strike capability.”

Capt. Jaime Engdahl, program manager for Navy’s UCAS program office, said on Tuesday that the Northrop-Grumman-built X-47B is not going to be armed.

“There is no plan to weaponize the aircraft … we’re not planning on doing that,” he said in Washington, DC, where he made a presentation about the drone at the Association of Unmanned Vehicle Systems.

Engdahl dismissed the X-47B as a strike system twice during the presentation.

The most famous drone hunter-killer today is the Air Force’s MQ-1 Predator, which is equipped with a pair of laser-guided AGM-114 Hellfire missiles. The Air Force began using the Predator for reconnaissance in the 1990s, but early in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars began arming the system. The CIA also uses Predators, including for operations in Pakistan and Yemen.

The Navy has been test flying its drone since 2011. But in recent months it has performed successfully in first-ever catapult launches, touch-and-gos and finally a landing from the George H.W. Bush.

Engdahl said the successful flights of the X-47B mark “an historic time for naval aviation.”

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No intention or no capacity? Not to knock on the US or anything, but maybe the risk is too much in a ‘unmanned’ strike platform? I mean purely for recon, don’t you guys have the Global Hawk? Why the need for a carrier borne reconaissance UAV? I’d like to think this is imagined as a strike vehicle. Or is it because of the current ‘scare of ZE DRONES’ that they try to downplay it? Or is it just not technologically feasible at the moment to have purely unmanned strike aircraft? Thanks.

Relax, RE-LAAAAAX, mon ami…that’s only the X-47B model…
What do you think the X-47“C” is gonna do…???…
“C” is for COMBAT, not “coffee”, or “cognac”, or “chips”…
Try to read more carefully, pay attention, and don’t forget to *T*H*I*N*K* before you comment…
(…how ya doin’, mon ami…???… ?que pasa?…
Also, seriously, the “bat-wing” configuration of the X-47B makes it ideal, aerodynamically,
for carrier ops development, but less so as a stable weapons delivery platform…
The enormously intricate forces generated by launch and deployment of various weapons systems makes remote, and self-guided flight control much more difficult…
Why waste $BILLIONS$ weaponizing the X-47B, when we have several, PROVEN drones designs
already in service…???…
More likely, the OTHER drone designs will be adapted to carrier ops, as the X-47B proves out and develops carrier ops parameters…
Losing a drone to a failed carrier landing is NOTHING, compared to losing a piloted airframe…

I see. Is the C just a variant of this craft, or a completely different one? I’m not French neither:) Btw, the French liberated you so don’t be like that. Anyway, it’s nice to see the envelope being pushed. I fully see a combat drone, fully autonomous, in the near future. Good for you.

Article is somewhat misleadling since it doesn’t differentiate between X-47B UCAS Demonstrator and the competition for the UCLASS program of record.

The report is correct about X-47B, it is a carrier landing demonstrator only so why arm it. But this does not address the UCLASS program.

That said, when they run out of money, I could see weapon integration and clearance being delayed to field an ISR only UCLASS if it comes to that.

My unofficial speculations on the X-47“C” simply follow standard military equipment nomenclature and designation procedure…the “B” model is current-use…
The biggest, perpetual obstacle to “full autonomous” ops is the fact that there would be no human over-ride in the event of major malfunction or system failure…
An autonomous drone is fine, until it start thinking for itself, and then we realize we can no longer control, stop, or predict its’ behaviour…
In such an event, we would be seeing the FIRST, truly FREE MACHINE…
(…why do I feel like Oppenheimer at Alamagordo, quoting the Bhagavad Gita…???…)
Ciao, me AMIGO…

The X-47B is just a test aircraft to prove what is possible. They don’t intend to arm this particular airframe, but the ones coming after it will likely be armed. The Global Hawk is run by the Air Force and is not really used for tactical operations which the Navy UAV will be.

Well it small size it doesn’t surprise me that it wont be a Hornet replacement thank goodness. For recon it may be useful in high danger areas. Like how Fireball drones where used over North Vietnam for recon missions. This drone is far more survivable in a real war than its predecessors.

I’m sure it’ll take the same path as the Predators (unarmed it was the RQ-1, armed it was the MQ-1). It’s smart to enter service unarmed and develop the capability while working out the airframe kinks during deployment. Then introduce the armed capability in a second generation variant.

…and Global Hawk would need a radical re-design and strenthening of undercarriage, especially nose gear, plus a tailhook, for carrier ops…But, it COULD be done easily enough…given 10–20 years and about $50Billion…!!!…lol…

Well, maybe not directly… But it will be an accomplice… And yes, I sure that it is easily adaptable.… Bottom-line, why not? Gort and I love our drones.…

Smoke and Mirrors ! Just Smoke and Mirrors !

What good is it? Needs to be 100% for all uses.

“The Navy’s X-47B can take off, soar and land on an aircraft carrier without the aid of a human…” Really? Who’s guiding it — Thor? Odin? Satan?
Editing is a really useful function for print articles, been around for years.

If they become short on money, the manned systems will be the first to be sidelined. The human part of the equation is the most expensive piece. The entire logistics tail for each manned aircraft is substantial. Given the number of Carrier Air Wings, Marine WIngs, Air Force Squadrons, that is a huge expense

They should have gone with the X-45 it has already proven itself and would have been a lower risk option.

I wouldn’t push that ‘French liberated you’ thing too much, unless you where there and just believe everything you read from a book.

Sorry, tried to up-vote, missed, and the dang thing won’t let me change it.

arm it!

…X-47B,…Command & Control, CinC Admiral Davy Jones…

Much ado over relatively little. I translate this article as “there’s no appropriation to weaponize this platform yet.” That’s all it really says. If not this one, some other UAV will carry weapons off a carrier deck, eventually.

As a side note, I wonder if some future UAV won’t also launch from carrier decks to carry some Distributed Aperture System, as with the F-35, to provide an IR early warning system to the carrier below. That wouldn’t need a huge degree of stealth.

Concerned European The X– means “Experimental Prototype” each Military Aircraft was called an X– something before it was approved A lot of factors have to in to a plane before it can be approved.
Mainly money and safety though is a huge selling point that needs to be considered.

I was a FO in Vietnam, and if I had a arm less drone like X 47-B to mark my targets I could just order up any sort of ordnance I please to fulfill our mission. pin point accuracy (sweet) It would also cut down on non– enemy casualties.
Steve Androff B CO 2/16 Rangers, 1st INF DIV. 1968


Dutch bankers were some of the first to extend loans, along with the French government, followed by Spain. French cannons ended up in our arsenal, as did French powder, and guns as well. The revolutionaries could not even have fielded a Continental Army without large reserves of weapons, uniforms, food, powder and the like which came from somewhere and paid for by someone. Muskets are militia weapons, but not heavy artillery.

French soldiers didn’t arrive until much later. They were mostly coming over post-Saratoga, but before that, clandestine aid and loans got us Saratoga. I suspect without overt aid, that the Continental Army would’ve chosen a more indirect strategy. Back away from Cornwallis in the south, wipe out loyalists, whittle him down in the Carolinas, repeat the same in the north rather than direct confrontation. It’s probable that dragging out the war without French soldiers and Rochambeau would’ve led to the same peace in 1781…but without /supplies/ from other European nations, it’s difficult to imagine American victory.

I’m originally from Britain, but for the last 25 years an American citizen. From what I’ve read of American history, the French certainly played a good part in assisting Washington at various points in his campaign. But regardless of that, I think that EU citizen missed the mention in the above article of the Predator — an armed combat drone that has been in existence since the 1990’s.

They don’t need one at the moment, but of course, a model C (for Combat) or model D (for Damage), or even a model E (for Extreme Combat Damage) may still be in the works.

Dave http://​www​.prophecy102​.com

UCAS-D is a demonstration aircraft. It was intended to prove it could land on an aircraft carrier, which it did. This aircraft is not in production, its is not going to any war zone to save our war fighters. But now we are continuing to fly the aircraft, just to keep ups its visibility in Washington. During these times of sequestration and funding cuts why are we continuing to spend millions on this demonstrator? Why not save this money for the UCLASS program, a program that is actually going to produce an aircraft that will actually have a mission.

UCAS-D is a technology demonstration program. As such, the contractors contributed a much larger piece of the development cost, saving the DoD from footing the entire development of a new technology and capability. It is not an acquisition program.

Predator and Reaper are drones, not capable of autonomous anything, except a station keeping loiter mode, maybe. They are piloted, the pilot just doesn’t sit in them.

By my count, the French are more indebted to the Americans than the Americans are to the French. America paid her debt to France 1918. Then in 1944, America paid again.

X stands for experimental. It was dumb luck that the aircraft even successfully completed the arrested landings on the carrier. Did anyone els notice that they had to hoist the aircraft on the carrier the first few times in went to the ship? It was only until very recently that it made the first (and very few) arrested landings at the ship. This is a very unproven aircraft and it would be a huge waist of money to weaponize it. Additionally, the first versions of UCLASS will be for reconnaissance. We are at least 10 years out from putting a similar unmanned system on US aircraft carriers.

Realistically, the BEF and the French did most of the dying of WW1. The United States showed up when Germany was perilously close to its last legs-if the Russians had pulled out earlier (or the Soviets after the fall of the Tsar), the lack of American manpower would’ve deadlocked Western Europe. The psychological addition of new manpower would fill German hearts with dismay, but WW1 had already demonstrated the futility of sheer manpower.

WW2’s probably more appropriate though, and it’s hard to deny the belated principal American contribution to pushing the Germans out.

S A T A N !!

I disagree. The human stuff works and is proven in highly contested environments. UCLASS is still a bit of a science project. Even as of now the USN only plans on a few UCLASS UAVs per carrier. So if (when?) F-35C breaks the USN bank, UCLASS may die altogether. Hope not, but that is the likely outcome.

YO!, Dude, are you part of the NSA/DIA cointel program spouting propaganda and misinformation, or are you just congenitally stoopid…???…Yeah, they “hoisted” the X-47B…what, they were supposed to get a bunch of STRONG SAILORS to *CARRY* it aboard…???…You’re correct, NUMB-NUTS,…it didn’t trap before it landed on deck for the first time…Smoke another one, kiddo, because yeah, it’s a *WAIST* of money…so, what are YOU, a TYPO…???…
Scaled down, the X-47G will carry TACTICAL NUKES in ~2018 — 2019…
Maybe MOM will let you stay up past yur bedtime to watch, VosVerita-tas…

Paul, the article is correct. The system is loaded with a flight plan, which allows it to be autonomous. When it finishes it’s mission, the flight plan directs it to a staging point, then the Automatic Landing System on the aircraft carrier lands it on the deck. BTW, the Automatic Landing System (ALS) has been in use on carriers for some time, it is used quite frequently to land manned aircraft, particularly during adverse conditions.

…Steve Androff: “Thank-you for your service, SIR!, and WELCOME HOME…
(…being sea-borne, and amphibious, SEALS & Marine Recon are only good for littoral and near-shore OPS…
…The only ones who had the LEGS for those distant FO missions were the RANGERS…
***Barry Sadlers’ Adlers, Where Only American Eagles Dare…

I am sorry, but your post is just wrong. It was not dumb luck, the X47-B is a demonstrator, yes, but the demonstration was to prove that the aircraft could launch from and recover on aircraft carriers, so the contractor’s engineers put a huge amount of effort into that capability. You have to crawl before you can walk, and a lot of testing was done at the Navy’s carrier simulator. The reason it was hoisted onto the carrier was to test the real-life launch capability first. After the launch test, it was flown to the carrier and conducted several recoveries. Again, this represented a concerted engineering effort, not dumb luck.

…let’s at least stick to MILITARY history, doctordave777…“maitreya” is a pop-culture, mass-media, advertising and marketing campaign…nothing more…Let’s stick to Genesis 1:29, and the X-47B “ZeeAdler”…Hoyle’s science is solid, though…

…it’s a good thing they de-classified those program details BEFORE they fired you, Brian…lol…

Maybe an unmanned UAV carrier?

“…Navy drone cannot do – and is not intended to do – is kill anyone…”, so says the fox inside the hen house.

…LCS 14 Manchester, will be an/a UNV…( unmanned Naval Vessel…)…
(…LCS2 Independence class…the trimaran hull model…with the deletion of the forward 4″ gun turret, and the elimination of human crew, the new helo-bay will be a bi-directional capable, flow-through, launch & recovery system platform for UAV’s…*SOME* UAV’s will require the larger deck space aft, and there will be a type of catapult / launch ramp foreward…My company is contracting for 3D conceptual and working (scale) models…

Don’t disagree with your points, but the German offensive of 1918 came much closer to achieving a major breakthrough than is commonly acknowledged. Yes, the Germans were starving, but they threw everything into one last giant effort that was barely stopped. The Americans played a key role in that defense, and sustained many more casualties in WWI than the French did while assisting the Americans in 1776–1783. That’s why I count WWI as payback number 1.

“sustained many more casualties in WWI than the French did while assisting the Americans in 1776–1783″

Sure, but that’s because the populations of France, the UK and the US were orders of magnitude lower and it became more feasible logistically to ship large bodies of troops across the water.

My notes suggest 6,000–8,000 French showed up; and at Yorktown there were about that many American troops in play. Americans are indoctrinated to believe Yorktown was the decisive battle, and there 50% of the troops were French.

My notes suggest that at the beginning of 1918 four divisions were battle ready and on the line, and by september, 7 divisions and 500,000 men.

A cursory check of WW1 casualty numbers puts total casualties as high as 4M, perhaps half sustained before 1918. I suppose the French Army paid plenty to defend the homeland. It is probable that without American support, the British would’ve had to draft even more aggressively, perhaps as desperately as Germany ended up doing. Perhaps the outcome would have been an Armistice by France, instead of Germany.

Technically the X-47B will not kill anybody because its a technology demsntrator. But this size UAV will eventually be a “penetrating strike capability” as the production models come on line. That’s the whole point. To substitute a pilotless vehicle for a manned aircraft to reduce costs and save lives.

So, the point here is that DoDBuzz just needed filler for an article today and wrote up this nonsensical article. How about talking about the substitution effect? Once operationally tested and armed, how many F-35C’s go away because they are being replaced with cheaper X-47’s?

This has nothing to do with what this particuler AC can do. What is enjoyable to me as a career USAF retiree aviation guy, is something I have advicated for many years, zipper suited sun gods, commonly known as pilots still refuse to believe they are in the twighlight of their existence. If they think we still need humans in the cockpit of fighter and attack AC to fight Air Battles, you have no clue of the shape of future battlefields.

There is every reason a development of the X-47B should have an excellent chance of winning UCLASS.

Thats typical for the Navy, they wanted drones because every other branch is using them(to fight the enemy), now all they want to do with them, is amuse themselves while they are cruising around the world. Why not just put a Polo field on the deck of the carriers next.…What was the point of spending all that money on em if they are not gonna be killers of the enemy?

…the gun camera footage needs to live-streamed to a dedicated youtube channel, with an “invitation-only“
subscriber list…you signing up, too…???…
…that warehouse full of new / unused A10 cannons can easily be retro-fitted in a pod under the X-47B…
…a flying, filming, *BAD*GUY*KILLING* bat-wing DRONE…
…have a GOOD weekend, too, “top dog”…

France lost a little less than 1.4 mil KIA in WWI. We lost almost 200k. The French lost about 2k in our revolution. We lost 25k. If you multiply the ratios it’s about even.

Then there’s WWII.

If you look at the Cold War there’s a huge imbalance. There’s no question as to what the balance sheet looks like.

Speaking of Drones I found a picture of SOMETHING VERY STRANGE and like nothing I have ever seen.
It is at the Adiyaman AB in the UAE. It is outside a hanger and on a tarmac with a TR-1 spy plane and AWACS aircraft. Can anyone ID it?

Hi Bradford … my blog is about many other issues besides military history. I would disagree with you that Maitreya is pop-culture. The organizations backing this character are extremely serious about their intent.

Ultimately, he and his crew may be a nothing on the map of history, but they are very much like Hitler and the Nazi party in the late 1920’s. They are waiting for an economic collapse and then they will attempt to swing into action just as Hitler did. Very much the same, nice sounding plan, except for those who disagree with their program. I know alot about them and they state that Christian fundamentalists (like me) will have to be “removed” to allow the world to move into the next plane.

Believe it or not, they have planted some of their people into high levels of government and the civil service, including the military, and they are just waiting for the call from their boss.


Although America has definitely paid it’s debt to the French and Europe, I think that the point is that if the French had not been there at the critical point in the American Revolution, there might not be an America as we know it today. Try to step away from the nationalistic fervour and consider the importance of the French contribution at that specific point in the War.

No-one is saying that the numbers are uneven, it’s more to do with the significance and timing. And sure, America’s timing was critical too, although in WWII I think that the Russians might well have done in Germany, with the help of the British and the Empire forces, without the States at all.


No way would Germany have been defeated by the Soviet Union and England. There would have been no Arfica, Sicily or Italian invasions as even the survival of England against U-boats was in doubt. What would have happened is the Germans would have had more time to bring the V1, V2 and Jet programs into full use as well as developing a nuke.

BTW, “Nationalistic Fervor” as you refer to it is totally appropriate when a elitist European gives credit to France for “liberating” the US.

Lotta money down the drain when it gets jumped by an enemy fighter. Or does it have an automatic
head to swivel in the cockpit?

Little over done on the PC huh, what do they call the place where the pilot used to sit now?

Why build an aircraft like and not arm it? I don’t think so.

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