Look up in the sky. No it’s not a UFO even though it may look like it. The UCAS-D went viral on You Tube in December when it was being transported from Edwards Air Force Base to PAX River. It sure looked like a UFO to a lot of people who saw it.
A second of the Navy’s Unmanned Combat Air System X-47B UCAS-D will arrive sometime in the near future to the Patuxent River Naval Air Station. The one already here is undergoing ground testing. Both will begin flying this summer on a route that is almost entirely out over the Chesapeake Bay, so the chances are small of seeing it unless you are out in a boat.
The UCAS-D program was explained to the county commissioners and other county staff on Tuesday at the regular meeting between the county and the Navy. Commissioner Todd Morgan (R: 4th) during the meeting assured the general public if they do see it that it really isn’t a flying saucer (although it does fly and does look like a saucer).
The briefing was conducted by PMA- 268 Navy UCAS Program Manager Capt. Jaime Engdahl. He said the Pax River testing this year is the second of three phases that began last year at Edwards with a F/A 18D Manned Surrogate and concludes next year with actual take offs and landings on the carrier USS Eisenhower.
The manned surrogate testing included an Autonomous Arrested Landing on July 2, 2011 and interim steps “to demonstrate landing technology and unmanned autonomous operations with safety/redundancy of a man in the cockpit.”
Engdahl describes what is happening this year as “shore carrier suitability testing.” When the actual flights begin this summer over the Bay, they will be manned, according to Jamie Cosgrove, the program’s public information officer.
According to Capt. Engdahl, “Successful testing reduces risks, builds confidence for X-47B carrier landing in 2013.”
The UCAS-D is envisioned as an unmanned option to the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter that is currently being tested at Pax River. The UCAS-D is being developed and tested for the Navy by Northrup Grumman.