X-47B unmanned jet flies for first time

 X-47B Pictures, Images and Photos

Late last week marked the first flight for the future of the U.S. Navy. As reported by the LA Times (click here to read it), the X-47B successfully flew for about 29 minutes from Edwards Air Force Base and gave the world a glimpse of what future military combat will look like. We have not even seen the new fighter jets, F-35 and F-22 in real action yet and we are already testing the future beyond those manned fighter jets.

Northrop Grumman Corp.’s X-47B is a fighter jet that is designed to take its instructions from a computer. A person will input the exact flight path and mission in a computer program which the jet will carry out. It will take off from an aircraft carrier, fly on the intended flight path, drop bombs as assigned and fly back and land back on the aircraft carrier. By having this jet be an unmanned drone, it greatly reduces the risk of the would-be pilot and will also reduce costs associated with having a pilot carry out such missions. The other advantage to using a drone is that it is not limited to the limitations that humans have. This means it can be in the air for longer and can withstand higher G’s. The design of the jet also benefits from not having to have a cockpit for a human pilot.

It is always interesting to see what the future will look like, especially in military use. The reason is that the military usually uses more advanced technology than everything else. These technologies generally find their way to civilian use (like the internet, for example). Perhaps this means that in the future we will have UPS jets that are also unmanned carrying our packages around the world faster than the current jets can. I guess we will find out eventually.