The X-47B Unmanned Combat Air System demonstrator (UCAS-D) completed its first ever carrier-based catapult launch from USS George H.W. Bush off the coast of Virginia on Tuesday. Pratt & Whitney's F100-PW-220U engine and exhaust system powered the historic flight.
The unmanned aircraft launched from the deck of George H.W. Bush at 11:18 a.m. on May 14. It executed several planned low approaches to the carrier and safely transited across the Chesapeake Bay to land at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Md., after a 65-minute flight.
"This is exciting news for Pratt & Whitney and a watershed event for the Navy. We have worked several years with Northrop Grumman, the Navy and our industry partners to achieve this success," said Jimmy Reed, Pratt & Whitney's director of Advanced Programs, whose team supplied the engines for the UCAS-D program. "Three members of our team were aboard the USS H.W. Bush and personally witnessed this historic event. Throughout this program, our F100-PW-220U engines have performed flawlessly. Only in retrospect will we fully appreciate this accomplishment and its impact on Naval aviation, but today we can simply feel proud of our product and our support of this program."
Completing another important first for the UCAS-D program, the team demonstrated the ability to precisely navigate the X-47B within the controlled airspace around an aircraft carrier at sea and seamlessly pass control of the air vehicle from a "mission operator" aboard the carrier to one located in the Mission Test Control Center at NAS Patuxent River for landing.
Prior to the catapult launch on May 14, the UCAS test team also conducted deck-handling and ship-integration testing to demonstrate the capability to safely operate the X-47B in the dynamic, unforgiving environment of an aircraft carrier flight deck.
Northrop Grumman awarded a contract to Pratt & Whitney in 2008 to develop and integrate the engine and exhaust system for the X-47B. The Pratt & Whitney F100-PW-220U engine, a derivative of the F100-PW-220 and -220E engine models that power the F-15 Eagle and F-16 Falcon, enjoys the maturity gained from more than 12 million hours of operational experience.
The F100-PW-220U engine is capable of providing up to 16,000 pounds of thrust and is intended for operation in a maritime environment, including carrier deck operations.
Click here to view a news release with more details from Naval Air Systems Command Public Affairs.