The Navy’s newest unmanned stealth drone looks like a cross between the Silver Surfer and a UFO, but there are now plans in the works to add a super-extended operating range to its capabilities.
The X-47B drone is scheduled to have a pilotless, in-air refueling capacity by 2014 that will upgrade its in flight range well beyond 3,000 nautical miles, according to Wired.
That’s 10 times the mission capable range of a traditional manned fighter, which would mean that the stealth drone can operate well-beyond the reported range of China’s “carrier-killer” Dongfeng 21-D missile.
The Carrier-killer missile has a reported range of 2,700 nautical miles and has been considered a threat by some analysts to the U.S. carrier fleet since Beijing officially announced the program last summer.
Carrier trials of the X-47B drone are slated to start on the USS George Washington in 2013.
The X-47B drone is part of the U.S. Navy’s Unmanned Combat Air System Carrier Demonstration (UCAS-D) program. UCAS-D could become the workhorse of the Navy’s carrier-based aerial fleet. Eventually, it could lead to the deployment of carrier-launched drones around the world without risking naval aviators. The absence of a pilot is also key to the extended range of the drones.
The X-47B drone took its first recorded flight in September.
Tags: Navy’s, New, X-47B, Aerial, Drone, Over 3, 000, Nautical, Miles
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