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X-47B makes historic carrier landing

written by australianaviation.com.au | July 15, 2013
The X-47B traps aboard the USS George H W Bush.

Northrop Grumman’s X-47B Unmanned Combat Air System (UCAS) demonstrator has completed its first arrested landing on an aircraft carrier, landing aboard the USS George H W Bush, which was under way off the coast of Virginia, on July 10.

After the X-47B took off from NAS Patuxent River, the X-47B was controlled by a mission operator aboard the aircraft carrier. The UCAS demonstrator flew a number of planned precision approaches to the carrier before landing and trapping the ship’s three-wire.

“Although it looks like it could be an easy manoeuvre, today’s successful arrested landings points back to a rigorous test plan focused on software development and system maturity to prove today that an autonomous unmanned system such as the X-47B can safely, seamlessly and predictably integrate into Navy carrier operations,” said Carl Johnson, vice president and Navy UCAS program manager for Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems.

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Steer your own in-flight experience – available on print and digital Whether our classic glossy magazine in your letterbox, daily news updates in your inbox, peeling back a few layers in the podcast or our monthly current affair reports, you can count on us to keep you up to date. Sign up today for just $99.95 for more exclusive offers here. Subscribe now at australianaviation.com.au.

16 Comments

  • Dee

    says:

    This is a “real”sign of the future in aviation, something Australia should be looking very closely at for their future needs, all be it not the Carrier version, but a land based unit.

  • Darren

    says:

    UAV’s continue to advance towards greater capability. It seems inevitable that they will increase their presence with the world’s air arms. The Williams Foundation’s examination of UAV’s is timely, indeed the pace of change makes its completion almost urgent. Many will claim that age of manned fighter/strike aircraft is drawing to a close. Only time will tell. Whether the aircraft is manned or unmanned can be debated, but I feel that it is important to maintain a man/woman as part of the system. When it comes to weapon delivery no matter how autonomous the aircraft system may be, the final and overriding decision should rest with a human operator. Certainly this may be subject to mistakes, but with tightly controlled checks and balances errors can be minimised.

    Hopefully we will see future feature articles, in-depth analysis, discussion and debate publically and within defence to educate all levels across society so that we arrive at an informed decision as to if, when and how we might use this technology.

    It would seem this is a natural evolution of our desire to remove ourselves from danger and keep our enemies at arms length. To this end armed UAV’s achieve this, but what ramifications may result from this?

  • Raymond

    says:

    Awesome capability… stealthy UCAS’ operating from aircraft carriers…

    Dee – assuming it’s practical to operate off the Canberra-class LHD’s, why not carrier-based?

    Darren – as long as a ‘man-in-the-loop’ remains (and there’s no suggestion otherwise), I can’t even see the need for a debate as far as UCAS’ go.

  • John N

    says:

    Raymond,

    There is no way an X47B could operate off the Canberra class LHD’s, massive difference between a USN Carrier and the LHD’s.

    * LHD – straight deck, no catapult or arrestor gear.
    * USN Carrier – angled deck, catapults and arrestor gear.

    Apart from being ‘unmanned’, the X47B is no different to say for example, an FA18, both CTOL aircraft, both need catapults to launch from a deck and both need arrestor gear to land.

    The other part of the mix is the angled deck for landing (angled decks were invented so that launching aircraft could continue while others landed at the same time), fast jets and straight decks don’t mix if you are trying to do both!

    If an aircraft doesn’t catch the arrestor wire with its hook, it basically becomes a ‘touch and go’ and has to go to full throttle, continue to fly off the angled deck, go around and have another go.

    Unless the RAN gets back into the carrier business with a ‘real’ carrier, which I seriously doubt, it’s never going to happen, UCAS or manned.

    Will we ever see a UCAS in Australian service? Yes, but probably not for many many years to come.

    I could certainly see a time in the distant future when a ‘mature’ UCAS may operate alongside (and maybe being controlled by) E7A’s, P8A’s, F35A’s or their successor.

    As to the X47B, amazing bit of technology, to be able to land and take off from a ‘moving’ airfield in the middle of the Ocean, I think the developments in this area are going to be quiet staggering in the years to come.

    Is it the end of manned aircraft? Don’t think so, but I can see a time were a fleet of UCAS may be used as a ‘first strike’ option, much better to looses an aircraft in a hot environment rather than an aircraft and a pilot too!!

    Cheers,

    John N

  • Raymond

    says:

    John N,

    Okay, understood – thanks!

    Alright, back to the land-based idea… 🙂

  • Eli

    says:

    Look at the last 100 years in aviation. It has been an exponential growth in technology, Its going to be very interesting to see where it goes from here.

    Eli

  • Gerald Casimatis

    says:

    Hi John N & Raymond

    I basically agree with your premise john that in the short term we will require land based unmanned aircraft however I’m pretty sure you don’t put ski jumps on AAS’s or any other ships unless you wish to give them some offensive load carrying capacity ie manned or unmanned attack aircraft or at least long range fuel laden observation platforms. Where they land might not be an issue.
    On another point that intrigues me is at what point do you replace manned with unmanned. With the jamming and intact capture of a high tech US spy drone by Iran it might be a case of perhaps not in our life times Many of us will remember the rhetoric of the 60s 70s 80s about no need for armies and navies as button activated missiles would make then obsolete.

  • John N

    says:

    Hi Gerald,

    Our new LHD’s are not aircraft carriers, despite what they might ‘look’ like, but there is a very specific reason why the new LHD’s have ski jumps.

    We looked at two designs, one French and one Spanish, the smaller French LHD’s did not have a ski jump, the Spanish design did, we chose the Spanish design, and not because it had a ski jump.

    At the time Spain already had one operational (now decommissioned) STOVL carrier operating AV8B Harriers, their LHD, (Juan Carlos I), is ‘primarily’ an amphibious ship, but she was also designed as a back up to their carrier and also to keep Harrier pilots ‘current’ when their carrier was in maintenance or unavailable for service, yes the Spanish intend to use JC1 for a ‘broader’ range of operations than the RAN.

    Australia does not currently have any plans whatsoever to equip the LHD’s with STOVL jets, their role is specifically for amphibious operations.

    So why do our LHD’s have a ski jump? Simply because it was part of the design of the ship that most suited the RAN’s needs and probably also tied to the AWD purchase, which is another Spanish design too.

    I’ve been told previously, on good authority from people in the know, that to remove the ski jump and allow for another helicopter landing spot would have added significantly to the cost of the ships, there are issues such as ‘structural integrity’ of the existing design and centre of gravity issues that would required to be adjusted too, basically at the end of the day, it was cheaper and easier to leave the ski jump ‘where is, as is’!

    The only time we might see the ski jumps in use is in some joint coalition operation where the US may operate STOVL aircraft off the LHD’s deck if necessary or during some joint exercise.

    So basically in answer to your point, unless the Government changes policy, and there is no sign of that from either side of politics, we are not going to see fixed wing aircraft operating off the LHD’s, manned or unmanned, and if there was a change they, because of the nature of the ship, they would have to be of a STOVL design, CTOL designs such as the X47B (or FA18) need catapults and arrestor wires, the LHD’s have neither!

    Cheers,

    John N

  • Raymond

    says:

    John N – Are the decks of the LHD’s sufficient as they are to take STOVL operations? Or would they need to be strengthened (e.g. to take the jet blast from an F-35B)? I recall something about the heat potentially melting the surface of some decks…

  • John N

    says:

    Hi Raymond,

    Have a look at the link below, it should answer most of your questions:

    http://www.aviationweek.com/Article.aspx?id=/article-xml/asd_05_29_2013_p01-02-582896.xml

    The two paragraphs (repeated below) pretty well cover the modifications that the US Navy has to make to their fleet of LHD/LHA’s:

    “(US) Navy officials say the modifications “are intended to offset the increased stresses associated with JSF exhaust. The exhaust patterns and flight characteristics of the F-35 required the shielding, relocation and removal of vulnerable systems that could sustain damage during flight operations, such as antennas, life rafts, life rails, safety nets and JP-5 fuel stations.”

    “Additionally, the (US) Navy says, “The unique heat signature of the F-35 has required reinforcement of the flight deck to alleviate stresses from the heat of the jet, as well as modifying the flight deck coating to reduce erosion caused by jet exhaust associated with increased thrust. Specific system modifications that are unique to F-35 will also require the installation of new voltage regulators and rectifiers. Expanded mission capabilities of the F-35 have also required enhanced munitions throughput and systems capabilities to facilitate increased ordnance delivery and aircraft associated support equipment.”

    So as you can see, apart from modifications to certain equipment on the LHD/LHA’s, they have to ‘reinforce’ the deck (maybe that is restricted to the F35B landing area’s on the ships) and also the ‘protective’ deck coating too.

    As to the RAN’s LHD’s, who knows, but assuming they have built to the same spec as the deck of Spanish LHD, maybe capable of operating AV8B Harriers, but as you can see from the article above, there would no doubt have to be modifications to operate F35B’s (if that option was ever looked at, which again, I seriously doubt will ever happen).

    Cheers,

    John N

  • Gerald Casimatis

    says:

    Hi John N

    I fully agree that drones requiring integrated take off and landing systems are beyond the present potential capabilities of our Canberra class ships and I followed the ships’ selection process however the basic tenant of what I perhaps wrongly assumed Raymond was considering was the possibility of our navy using advanced UAVs?
    I refer and suggest you read the highly detailed RAN Working Paper No.6 [ I haven’t fully ] in which a number of drone forms are mentioned for potential evaluation by our Navy. The paper was prepared in May 2001 by Lieutenant Commander Peter Ashworth and could conceivably have been a further reason why we selected our AAS.
    I have no knowledge of how far the Navy progressed in evaluating this paper, as I’m more interested in aircraft history however my recollection of our Army using a variety of drones which were potentially capable of supporting our army from large naval vessels on calm seas has in my eyes been supported by a number of Google sites. They mention many and varied not just Australian mainly short range observation drones being tested and /or are now in use operationally from often rough fields.They would therefore be useful if an amphibious assault is required on small islands and remote places in the Asia Pacific region.
    Finally John calling a ship that carries aircraft a carrier is literally correct irrespective of what political spin you believe. The British called their tiny Invincible Class Carriers Through Deck Cruisers, Anti Sub Cruisers and helicopter carriers etc until they realised themselves when needed in a hot war they were just tiny aircraft carriers that could carry luckily a few VTOL aircraft to support a landing.

  • John N

    says:

    Hi Gerald,

    Not quite sure what you mean by ‘what political spin you believe’? Anyway….

    Sure you can call any ship with a deck that runs the length of the ship an aircraft carrier, you can call it anything you want, the Japanese call their helicopter carriers ‘helicopter destroyers’, we are calling the Canberra Class, ‘Landing Helicopter Dock’ ships.

    At the end of the day it comes down to how an individual nation intends to operate and equip their various ‘aircraft capable’ ships and in Australia’s case, they will be used for amphibious operations with the ability to offload men and equipment by both helicopters and landing craft from the well dock.

    As to the UK the politics involved in cancelling the two large CVA-01 ships and then producing the Invincible Class, yes that was a very messy process, way too much political interference, but the Sea Harriers were not ordered because of a ‘hot war’, which I presume you mean what happened with Argentina in ’82, they were ordered in the mid 70’s to defend the ships against Soviet aircraft.

    As to Australia ever operating fixed wing combat aircraft at sea again, well that’s a whole other discussion that also requires a change in Government policy and also a significant and sustained increase in the Defence budget to obtain the aircraft and ships for that purpose without diverting funds from other capabilities.

    The Canberra Class LHD’s aren’t going to be sent into a hot environment all on their lonesome, if there was a major conflict they would be part of a larger Coalition fleet that would no doubt contain Air Warfare Destroyers and more than likely USN Aircraft Carriers equipped with combat aircraft, the LHD’s job will be to land men and equipment, not air defence, etc.

    Getting back to UAV’s operating off ships, the LHD’s and even ships like Frigates with a flight deck can operate UAV’s such as ScanEagle, they can be launched from a small catapult and retrieved by a ‘skyhook’, that’s all possible now.

    As to larger UAV’s that have more endurance and/or a larger sensor payload, the issue is how do you launch and recover them back onto a ship? Possibly the answer is a ’tilt rotor’ design.

    Over the coming years I think we are going to see huge steps in the development of UAV’s in all sorts of roles, it’s going to be interesting to watch!

    Cheers,

    John N

  • Andrew McLaughlin

    says:

    Just a reminder, the X-47B was a demonstrator program. The two aircraft used in the carrier trials will now be retired, and the demonstration results will be used to inform the US Navy’s nascent UCLASS program which probably won’t see an operational capability before 2025-2030.

    As to the ADF operating armed UAVs…there’s a lot of political water that will need to flow under the bridge before that happens.

  • Gerald Casimatis

    says:

    Thanks John

    I appreciate your opinion and facts and share your interest in the development of UAV’s and their applications
    .
    It might appear insignificant in this forum however my spin comment in response to your reply of 21st July was purely a tongue in cheek jab at no one calling a duck a duck anymore. We have named our new ship’s AAS’s or LHD’s instead of Amphibious Assault Carriers because I fear in some politically correct circles Carrier is a dirty word.

    One hopes that the comment Andrew finishes with above and the need in the future for VSTOL aircraft are addressed sooner rather than later.

    cheers Gerald

  • Raymond

    says:

    Andrew McLaughlin – “As to the ADF operating armed UAVs…there’s a lot of political water that will need to flow under the bridge before that happens.”

    I don’t really understand what the big deal is anyway… as long as a ‘man-in-the-loop’ remains (and there’s no suggestion otherwise), I can’t even see the need for a debate as far as UCAS’ go. It’s effectively the same as a manned platform, except that the pilot is operating the aircraft remotely; aircrew still need to ‘pull the trigger’.

    Are you able to enlighten me, please?

    Cheers,
    Raymond

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

X-47B makes historic carrier landing

written by australianaviation.com.au | July 15, 2013
The X-47B traps aboard the USS George H W Bush.

Northrop Grumman’s X-47B Unmanned Combat Air System (UCAS) demonstrator has completed its first arrested landing on an aircraft carrier, landing aboard the USS George H W Bush, which was under way off the coast of Virginia, on July 10.

After the X-47B took off from NAS Patuxent River, the X-47B was controlled by a mission operator aboard the aircraft carrier. The UCAS demonstrator flew a number of planned precision approaches to the carrier before landing and trapping the ship’s three-wire.

“Although it looks like it could be an easy manoeuvre, today’s successful arrested landings points back to a rigorous test plan focused on software development and system maturity to prove today that an autonomous unmanned system such as the X-47B can safely, seamlessly and predictably integrate into Navy carrier operations,” said Carl Johnson, vice president and Navy UCAS program manager for Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems.

Advertisement
Advertisement

Steer your own in-flight experience – available on print and digital Whether our classic glossy magazine in your letterbox, daily news updates in your inbox, peeling back a few layers in the podcast or our monthly current affair reports, you can count on us to keep you up to date. Sign up today for just $99.95 for more exclusive offers here. Subscribe now at australianaviation.com.au.

16 Comments

  • Dee

    says:

    This is a “real”sign of the future in aviation, something Australia should be looking very closely at for their future needs, all be it not the Carrier version, but a land based unit.

  • Darren

    says:

    UAV’s continue to advance towards greater capability. It seems inevitable that they will increase their presence with the world’s air arms. The Williams Foundation’s examination of UAV’s is timely, indeed the pace of change makes its completion almost urgent. Many will claim that age of manned fighter/strike aircraft is drawing to a close. Only time will tell. Whether the aircraft is manned or unmanned can be debated, but I feel that it is important to maintain a man/woman as part of the system. When it comes to weapon delivery no matter how autonomous the aircraft system may be, the final and overriding decision should rest with a human operator. Certainly this may be subject to mistakes, but with tightly controlled checks and balances errors can be minimised.

    Hopefully we will see future feature articles, in-depth analysis, discussion and debate publically and within defence to educate all levels across society so that we arrive at an informed decision as to if, when and how we might use this technology.

    It would seem this is a natural evolution of our desire to remove ourselves from danger and keep our enemies at arms length. To this end armed UAV’s achieve this, but what ramifications may result from this?

  • Raymond

    says:

    Awesome capability… stealthy UCAS’ operating from aircraft carriers…

    Dee – assuming it’s practical to operate off the Canberra-class LHD’s, why not carrier-based?

    Darren – as long as a ‘man-in-the-loop’ remains (and there’s no suggestion otherwise), I can’t even see the need for a debate as far as UCAS’ go.

  • John N

    says:

    Raymond,

    There is no way an X47B could operate off the Canberra class LHD’s, massive difference between a USN Carrier and the LHD’s.

    * LHD – straight deck, no catapult or arrestor gear.
    * USN Carrier – angled deck, catapults and arrestor gear.

    Apart from being ‘unmanned’, the X47B is no different to say for example, an FA18, both CTOL aircraft, both need catapults to launch from a deck and both need arrestor gear to land.

    The other part of the mix is the angled deck for landing (angled decks were invented so that launching aircraft could continue while others landed at the same time), fast jets and straight decks don’t mix if you are trying to do both!

    If an aircraft doesn’t catch the arrestor wire with its hook, it basically becomes a ‘touch and go’ and has to go to full throttle, continue to fly off the angled deck, go around and have another go.

    Unless the RAN gets back into the carrier business with a ‘real’ carrier, which I seriously doubt, it’s never going to happen, UCAS or manned.

    Will we ever see a UCAS in Australian service? Yes, but probably not for many many years to come.

    I could certainly see a time in the distant future when a ‘mature’ UCAS may operate alongside (and maybe being controlled by) E7A’s, P8A’s, F35A’s or their successor.

    As to the X47B, amazing bit of technology, to be able to land and take off from a ‘moving’ airfield in the middle of the Ocean, I think the developments in this area are going to be quiet staggering in the years to come.

    Is it the end of manned aircraft? Don’t think so, but I can see a time were a fleet of UCAS may be used as a ‘first strike’ option, much better to looses an aircraft in a hot environment rather than an aircraft and a pilot too!!

    Cheers,

    John N

  • Raymond

    says:

    John N,

    Okay, understood – thanks!

    Alright, back to the land-based idea… 🙂

  • Eli

    says:

    Look at the last 100 years in aviation. It has been an exponential growth in technology, Its going to be very interesting to see where it goes from here.

    Eli

  • Gerald Casimatis

    says:

    Hi John N & Raymond

    I basically agree with your premise john that in the short term we will require land based unmanned aircraft however I’m pretty sure you don’t put ski jumps on AAS’s or any other ships unless you wish to give them some offensive load carrying capacity ie manned or unmanned attack aircraft or at least long range fuel laden observation platforms. Where they land might not be an issue.
    On another point that intrigues me is at what point do you replace manned with unmanned. With the jamming and intact capture of a high tech US spy drone by Iran it might be a case of perhaps not in our life times Many of us will remember the rhetoric of the 60s 70s 80s about no need for armies and navies as button activated missiles would make then obsolete.

  • John N

    says:

    Hi Gerald,

    Our new LHD’s are not aircraft carriers, despite what they might ‘look’ like, but there is a very specific reason why the new LHD’s have ski jumps.

    We looked at two designs, one French and one Spanish, the smaller French LHD’s did not have a ski jump, the Spanish design did, we chose the Spanish design, and not because it had a ski jump.

    At the time Spain already had one operational (now decommissioned) STOVL carrier operating AV8B Harriers, their LHD, (Juan Carlos I), is ‘primarily’ an amphibious ship, but she was also designed as a back up to their carrier and also to keep Harrier pilots ‘current’ when their carrier was in maintenance or unavailable for service, yes the Spanish intend to use JC1 for a ‘broader’ range of operations than the RAN.

    Australia does not currently have any plans whatsoever to equip the LHD’s with STOVL jets, their role is specifically for amphibious operations.

    So why do our LHD’s have a ski jump? Simply because it was part of the design of the ship that most suited the RAN’s needs and probably also tied to the AWD purchase, which is another Spanish design too.

    I’ve been told previously, on good authority from people in the know, that to remove the ski jump and allow for another helicopter landing spot would have added significantly to the cost of the ships, there are issues such as ‘structural integrity’ of the existing design and centre of gravity issues that would required to be adjusted too, basically at the end of the day, it was cheaper and easier to leave the ski jump ‘where is, as is’!

    The only time we might see the ski jumps in use is in some joint coalition operation where the US may operate STOVL aircraft off the LHD’s deck if necessary or during some joint exercise.

    So basically in answer to your point, unless the Government changes policy, and there is no sign of that from either side of politics, we are not going to see fixed wing aircraft operating off the LHD’s, manned or unmanned, and if there was a change they, because of the nature of the ship, they would have to be of a STOVL design, CTOL designs such as the X47B (or FA18) need catapults and arrestor wires, the LHD’s have neither!

    Cheers,

    John N

  • Raymond

    says:

    John N – Are the decks of the LHD’s sufficient as they are to take STOVL operations? Or would they need to be strengthened (e.g. to take the jet blast from an F-35B)? I recall something about the heat potentially melting the surface of some decks…

  • John N

    says:

    Hi Raymond,

    Have a look at the link below, it should answer most of your questions:

    http://www.aviationweek.com/Article.aspx?id=/article-xml/asd_05_29_2013_p01-02-582896.xml

    The two paragraphs (repeated below) pretty well cover the modifications that the US Navy has to make to their fleet of LHD/LHA’s:

    “(US) Navy officials say the modifications “are intended to offset the increased stresses associated with JSF exhaust. The exhaust patterns and flight characteristics of the F-35 required the shielding, relocation and removal of vulnerable systems that could sustain damage during flight operations, such as antennas, life rafts, life rails, safety nets and JP-5 fuel stations.”

    “Additionally, the (US) Navy says, “The unique heat signature of the F-35 has required reinforcement of the flight deck to alleviate stresses from the heat of the jet, as well as modifying the flight deck coating to reduce erosion caused by jet exhaust associated with increased thrust. Specific system modifications that are unique to F-35 will also require the installation of new voltage regulators and rectifiers. Expanded mission capabilities of the F-35 have also required enhanced munitions throughput and systems capabilities to facilitate increased ordnance delivery and aircraft associated support equipment.”

    So as you can see, apart from modifications to certain equipment on the LHD/LHA’s, they have to ‘reinforce’ the deck (maybe that is restricted to the F35B landing area’s on the ships) and also the ‘protective’ deck coating too.

    As to the RAN’s LHD’s, who knows, but assuming they have built to the same spec as the deck of Spanish LHD, maybe capable of operating AV8B Harriers, but as you can see from the article above, there would no doubt have to be modifications to operate F35B’s (if that option was ever looked at, which again, I seriously doubt will ever happen).

    Cheers,

    John N

  • Gerald Casimatis

    says:

    Hi John N

    I fully agree that drones requiring integrated take off and landing systems are beyond the present potential capabilities of our Canberra class ships and I followed the ships’ selection process however the basic tenant of what I perhaps wrongly assumed Raymond was considering was the possibility of our navy using advanced UAVs?
    I refer and suggest you read the highly detailed RAN Working Paper No.6 [ I haven’t fully ] in which a number of drone forms are mentioned for potential evaluation by our Navy. The paper was prepared in May 2001 by Lieutenant Commander Peter Ashworth and could conceivably have been a further reason why we selected our AAS.
    I have no knowledge of how far the Navy progressed in evaluating this paper, as I’m more interested in aircraft history however my recollection of our Army using a variety of drones which were potentially capable of supporting our army from large naval vessels on calm seas has in my eyes been supported by a number of Google sites. They mention many and varied not just Australian mainly short range observation drones being tested and /or are now in use operationally from often rough fields.They would therefore be useful if an amphibious assault is required on small islands and remote places in the Asia Pacific region.
    Finally John calling a ship that carries aircraft a carrier is literally correct irrespective of what political spin you believe. The British called their tiny Invincible Class Carriers Through Deck Cruisers, Anti Sub Cruisers and helicopter carriers etc until they realised themselves when needed in a hot war they were just tiny aircraft carriers that could carry luckily a few VTOL aircraft to support a landing.

  • John N

    says:

    Hi Gerald,

    Not quite sure what you mean by ‘what political spin you believe’? Anyway….

    Sure you can call any ship with a deck that runs the length of the ship an aircraft carrier, you can call it anything you want, the Japanese call their helicopter carriers ‘helicopter destroyers’, we are calling the Canberra Class, ‘Landing Helicopter Dock’ ships.

    At the end of the day it comes down to how an individual nation intends to operate and equip their various ‘aircraft capable’ ships and in Australia’s case, they will be used for amphibious operations with the ability to offload men and equipment by both helicopters and landing craft from the well dock.

    As to the UK the politics involved in cancelling the two large CVA-01 ships and then producing the Invincible Class, yes that was a very messy process, way too much political interference, but the Sea Harriers were not ordered because of a ‘hot war’, which I presume you mean what happened with Argentina in ’82, they were ordered in the mid 70’s to defend the ships against Soviet aircraft.

    As to Australia ever operating fixed wing combat aircraft at sea again, well that’s a whole other discussion that also requires a change in Government policy and also a significant and sustained increase in the Defence budget to obtain the aircraft and ships for that purpose without diverting funds from other capabilities.

    The Canberra Class LHD’s aren’t going to be sent into a hot environment all on their lonesome, if there was a major conflict they would be part of a larger Coalition fleet that would no doubt contain Air Warfare Destroyers and more than likely USN Aircraft Carriers equipped with combat aircraft, the LHD’s job will be to land men and equipment, not air defence, etc.

    Getting back to UAV’s operating off ships, the LHD’s and even ships like Frigates with a flight deck can operate UAV’s such as ScanEagle, they can be launched from a small catapult and retrieved by a ‘skyhook’, that’s all possible now.

    As to larger UAV’s that have more endurance and/or a larger sensor payload, the issue is how do you launch and recover them back onto a ship? Possibly the answer is a ’tilt rotor’ design.

    Over the coming years I think we are going to see huge steps in the development of UAV’s in all sorts of roles, it’s going to be interesting to watch!

    Cheers,

    John N

  • Andrew McLaughlin

    says:

    Just a reminder, the X-47B was a demonstrator program. The two aircraft used in the carrier trials will now be retired, and the demonstration results will be used to inform the US Navy’s nascent UCLASS program which probably won’t see an operational capability before 2025-2030.

    As to the ADF operating armed UAVs…there’s a lot of political water that will need to flow under the bridge before that happens.

  • Gerald Casimatis

    says:

    Thanks John

    I appreciate your opinion and facts and share your interest in the development of UAV’s and their applications
    .
    It might appear insignificant in this forum however my spin comment in response to your reply of 21st July was purely a tongue in cheek jab at no one calling a duck a duck anymore. We have named our new ship’s AAS’s or LHD’s instead of Amphibious Assault Carriers because I fear in some politically correct circles Carrier is a dirty word.

    One hopes that the comment Andrew finishes with above and the need in the future for VSTOL aircraft are addressed sooner rather than later.

    cheers Gerald

  • Raymond

    says:

    Andrew McLaughlin – “As to the ADF operating armed UAVs…there’s a lot of political water that will need to flow under the bridge before that happens.”

    I don’t really understand what the big deal is anyway… as long as a ‘man-in-the-loop’ remains (and there’s no suggestion otherwise), I can’t even see the need for a debate as far as UCAS’ go. It’s effectively the same as a manned platform, except that the pilot is operating the aircraft remotely; aircrew still need to ‘pull the trigger’.

    Are you able to enlighten me, please?

    Cheers,
    Raymond

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

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