On Thursday, representatives from Pratt & Whitney joined the U.S. Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) and the industry team responsible for developing the X-47B Unmanned Combat Air System (UCAS) in Washington, D.C., to accept what is widely considered the most prestigious award in all of aviation – the Robert J. Collier Trophy. The Collier Trophy is awarded annually by the National Aeronautic Association (NAA) to recognize the greatest achievements in aeronautics or astronautics in America during the preceding year.
The award-winning aircraft – powered by Pratt & Whitney – pushes the boundaries of unmanned aviation, including being the first unmanned aircraft to take off and land on a sea-based carrier. For Jimmy Reed, former director of advanced engine programs for Pratt & Whitney, being a key contributor to the team that was recognized for making aviation history is an important success for the company.
"This proves to the world what we already knew: that Pratt & Whitney knows how to provide propulsion systems for the most challenging applications in the world," Reed said.
The platform uses the F100-PW-220U engine, a derivative of the F100-PW-220 engine that has powered F-15 and F-16 fighter jets around the globe for more than 30 years.
"When you are talking about a single-engine, unmanned aircraft which needs to land on a sea-based carrier – a moving target with people and expensive equipment on it – there's not a lot of room for error," said Doug Thonebe, chief engineer for Pratt & Whitney's UCAS engine program. "We provided an engine that can push further to keep up with new applications without sacrificing the dependability the F100 is known for."
About 20 representatives from the Pratt & Whitney team attended the award ceremony, which took place in a hangar at the Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport in Arlington, Va.
The Navy and all of the X-47B industry partners – which include Northrop Grumman, Lockheed Martin, Honeywell, and UTC Aerospace Systems (UTAS), among others – celebrated the victory.
"The excitement of being part of a program that is making naval and aviation history… it's incredible," said Barry Gilpatrick, a Pratt & Whitney engineer on the program. "It was just heartwarming to know that I had some part in supporting this program and making it happen."
"Working on the UCAS program is definitely a highlight of my career."
For more information about the propulsion system for the X-47B, check out the Fall 2013 issue of Pratt & Whitney Military Engines Product Support Quarterly, or this June 2013 interview from Avionics Intelligence with Jimmy Reed.