Fwd = Unmanned Navy kite debuts
- Forwarded by: fwestra@... (Frits Westra)
Original Date: 2 Aug 2001 17:56:52 -0000
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Unmanned Navy kite debuts
Craft first step in new combat air vehicle
This story appeared in the Antelope Valley Press July 31, 2001.
By ALLISON GATLIN
Valley Press Staff Writer
MOJAVE - Looking more like a UFO than a military machine, Northrop
Grumman's Pegasus rolled out on Monday. The one-of-a-kind technology
demonstrator is the latest entry into the world of unmanned military
The kite-shaped vehicle was built in Mojave at Scaled Composites Inc.,
Northrop Grumman's partner in the project.
With the experimental designation of X-47A, the futuristic aircraft is
the first step in the company's development of an unmanned combat air
vehicle for the U.S. Navy.
The aircraft presented on Monday will be used to test the aerodynamic
qualities of the unique design.
Later versions will further test other components for the final
Pegasus is now headed to Northrop Grumman's El Segundo facility for a
few months of testing on its systems.
Flight testing will follow before the end of the year at the China
Lake Naval Air Warfare Center near Ridgecrest, where researchers plan
to prove the aircraft's aerodynamic capabilities and its ability to
land precisely at the same spot over and over again - a necessity for
That will be the biggest test for the Pegasus, "unchartered territory"
for unmanned vehicles, said Chris Hernandez, Northrop Grumman vice
"The ability to hit the same spot on the ground (repeatedly) is a very
difficult thing to do," said Steve True, Northrop's systems test team
It is only with the recent development of more sophisticated and
accurate navigation systems that unmanned carrier landings have even
been thought possible, he said.
Although Pegasus' flight tests will be land-locked, the production
version of the Navy's UCAV will be completely carrier-based.
Integrating the unmanned vehicle into the chaotic - but carefully
orchestrated - atmosphere of the carrier deck is "a very significant
challenge," True said.
The program has scheduled 12 days of flight testing spread over
approximately three months at China Lake, with about three to nine
flights each day.
Program officials hope to complete about 40 flights.
The Pegasus prototype took just over a year to build.
Program officials attribute the short development time to the fact
that the aircraft uses primarily off-the-shelf components and existing
technologies, just in a new configuration.
"This is an extension of work we've been doing for the government for
years," Hernandez said.
The Navy is looking for three primary missions for its UCAV:
suppression of enemy air defenses, strike abilities and surveillance
Northrop Grumman and The Boeing Co. are the two companies bidding for
the construction contract.
� 2001 Antelope Valley Press, Palmdale, California, USA (661) 273-2700
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