The Northrop Grumman X-47B unmanned combat air system (UCAS) has successfully performed an autonomous aerial refueling (AAR) flight test off the coast of Maryland and Virginia powered by Pratt & Whitney's F100-PW-220U engine and exhaust system. This test event marks the first time an unmanned aircraft has demonstrated mid-air refueling using the Navy's probe-and-drogue refueling method, and completes the final objectives of the UCAS demonstration program. Pratt & Whitney is a division of United Technologies Corp. (NYSE:UTX).
The F100-PW-220U engine is based on the extremely successful engine powering the F-15 and F-16 aircraft around the world. The nozzle was uniquely designed for the X-47B application.
"The engine has performed nearly flawlessly," said Dan Grady, manager, Unmanned Systems, Pratt & Whitney. "Its performance and reliability has exceeded our expectations resulting in no unscheduled engine removals, 100 percent dispatch readiness and in-flight reliability."
During the test, the X-47B exchanged refueling messages with a government-designed Refueling Interface System (RIS) aboard the Omega K-707 tanker. While in-flight, the X-47B then autonomously maneuvered its fixed refueling probe into the tanker's drogue, transferred fuel and safely disconnected from the tanker, successfully completing the first contact flight.
"The ability to autonomously transfer and receive fuel in flight will increase the range and flexibility of future unmanned aircraft platforms, ultimately extending carrier power projection," said Capt. Beau Duarte, the Navy's Unmanned Carrier Aviation program manager. "What we accomplished today demonstrates a significant, groundbreaking step forward for the Navy."
Over the last few years, the X-47B conducted five carrier demonstrations, showcasing the Navy's commitment to unmanned carrier aviation through operations in and around the flight deck and maturing an AAR capability.
"Our team has worked closely with the Navy and Northrop Grumman to get ready for this important demonstration," said Grady. "Powering the successful fuel transfer marks a proud moment in history for Pratt & Whitney."
Pratt & Whitney is a world leader in the design, manufacture and service of aircraft engines and auxiliary power units. United Technologies Corp., based in Hartford, Connecticut, provides high technology products and services to the building and aerospace industries. To learn more about UTC, visit its website at www.utc.com, or follow the company on Twitter: @UTC.