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UCLASS Aboard a Flattop

An X-47B Unmanned Combat Air System (UCAS) demonstrator flies over the aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77) May 14. George H.W. Bush is the first aircraft carrier to successfully catapult launch an unmanned aircraft from its flight deck. (U.S. Navy photo courtesy of Northrop Grumman by Alan Radecki/Released)
An X-47B Unmanned Combat Air System (UCAS) demonstrator flies over the aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77) May 14. George H.W. Bush is the first aircraft carrier to successfully catapult launch an unmanned aircraft from its flight deck. (U.S. Navy photo courtesy of Northrop Grumman by Alan Radecki/Released)

An X-47B Unmanned Combat Air System (UCAS) demonstrator flies over the aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77) May 14. George H.W. Bush is the first aircraft carrier to successfully catapult launch an unmanned aircraft from its flight deck. (U.S. Navy photo courtesy of Northrop Grumman by Alan Radecki/Released)

Footage from last year of the X-47B UCLASS (Unmanned Carrier-Launched Surveillance and Strike) demonstrator aboard the USS George HW Bush (CVN-77) launching from the first time from an aircraft carrier and then performing touch-and-gos.

The product of the UCLASS program will be an unmanned drone capable of carrying any weapon currently listed in the US Navy’s carrier air wing inventory. It’ll be able to perform ISR (Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance) and strike missions. The drone will be remotely monitored from an E-2D Hawkeye or an F-35 Lightning II.

It’s expected that the UCLASS won’t actively engage in air-to-air combat with fighter aircraft but rather function as a recon/surveillance platform and a “flying magazine” for F-35s and F/A-18E/F Super Hornets, who’ll designate a target and commit a missile or a guided bomb from the UCLASS to attack.

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About Ian D'Costa (258 Articles)
Ian is the editor-in-chief of the Tactical Air Network. His work has been featured and referenced in a number of publications, including The Toronto Star, Airsoc, Business Insider and The Aviationist. You can reach him at idcosta@tacairnet.com.

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