In August 2007, the U.S. Navy selected Northrop Grumman as the prime contractor for the Unmanned Combat Air System Carrier Demonstration (UCAS-D) program. The program will provide the capability of an autonomous, low-observable unmanned aircraft to perform the first-ever carrier launches and recoveries, and autonomous aerial refueling. It will lead to an operational UCAS that will perform medium to long range recon, surveillance, and attack and interdiction missions.
The first flight of the X47-B occurred at Edwards Airforce Base on February 4, 2011. US aircraft carrier qualification will occur in 2013.
The six-year $635.8 million contract calls for the development of two X-47B fighter-sized, long-range, high endurance aircraft designated the X-47B. Test activities are in progress that will lead to completion of the Navy's carrier launch and recovery objectives by 2013. Successful at-sea trials will set the stage for potential follow-on acquisition programs and operational production in the 2016-2018 time frame
The X-47B is equipped with an avionics suite supplied by BAE Systems Platform Solutions of Johnson City, New York. The avionics and vehicle management computer performs flight control processing, autopilot control, engine control processing, mission command and control, navigation and other functions.
The computer features an embedded, open-architecture CsLEOS real-time operating system which uses 'brick-wall' time and memory partitioning to allow multiple applications to run on the same system without interfering with each other.
The system also provides multiple scheduling modes, allowing users to switch between different schedule profiles in real time.
The navigation systems include the US Navy shipboard relative global positioning system (SRGPS) automatic landing system.
The aircraft is powered by a single Pratt & Whitney Canada JT15D-5C turbofan engine rated at 14,19kN. The air vehicle carries 472kg of fuel but has a maximum capacity of 717kg of fuel for long-range operations or for increased loiter times.