By Tommy H. Thomason

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

The First Launch of an Unmanned Aircraft from an Aircraft Carrier?

Not the X-47B, despite the press release claim.
U.S. Navy photo courtesy of Northrop Grumman by Alan Radecki

It might not even be the tenth one. For sure there were a few F6F drones catapulted during the Korean War on combat missions:
There were F6F Hellcats launched as target drones.

At least one, anyway:
National Naval Aviation Museum via Rick Morgan

And then there was at least one Regulus missile launch using a cart:
And there may have been some TDN or TDR drone catapult launches although all I've ever seen are deck-run takeoffs of the TDN:

Since the Brits were first with just about everything concerning carrier-based operations, I wouldn't be surprised if they had held the honour on this achievement as well.

But congratulations to Northrop Grumman and the Navy nevertheless. The launch itself is actually not a big deal; F-18 pilots aren't even supposed to have their hand on the control stick during the launch. The taxi forward and hookup to the catapult unmanned? That is a much bigger deal and the X-47B is the first to do that.

The arrested landing on a carrier of an unmanned airplane would also be a first for sure. But not the first hands-off arrested landing. That was done more than 50 years ago. See


Rick Morgan said...

Bravo Tommy- once again, no sense of history or even curiosity before the sweeping announcement.
Rick Morgan

Unknown said...

This is the most assertive claim I have seen: