Navy Drone Launches for First Time from an Aircraft Carrier



Mike O'Brien
05/15/2013

The U.S. Navy made history on Tuesday with the first ever launch of a drone from a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier.

The bat-winged, remotely piloted X-47B UCAS (Unmanned Combat Air System) took off from the USS George H.W. Bush in the Atlantic off the Virginia coast.

The drone had a 65-minute flight before landing at the Navy’s Pax River test site.

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For the Navy, the event was a trailblazer for the eventual launch of the combat-ready real deal drone the UCLASS (Unmanned Carrier-Launched Airborne Surveillance and Strike System).

It was also something of a photo opportunity designed show military leaders in China and Iran the advanced capabilities of the Navy.

Both countries are developing sophisticated radar systems, advanced anti-aircraft missiles and shore-based anti-ship cruise missiles to keep U.S. carriers and aircraft at arm’s length.

Rep. Randy Forbes, Chairman of the House Subcomittee on Seapower, told Breakingdefense.com that based on the different ranges of missiles available to Tehran and Beijing, "we can only cover about a third of Iran and we can’t even get to China’s shore."

The drones may be the Navy’s answer to getting round the "anti-access/area denial systems" (A2/AD) problem.

The unmanned crafts are lighter with more room for fuel than conventional aircraft and eventually, with the launch of the UCLASS, will have long-range strike capability.

Watch the launch of the X-47B from USS George H.W. Bush below.