U.S.A., California, China Lake - December 12, 2002: For whatever reason in 2000, a southern California newspaper did not give any answers to frightened motorists who called in to report a UFO traveling down a very busy metropolitan interstate.
The Los Angeles Times reported the following year (2001) an interesting article, which 'still' left out an awful lot of details about what motorists actually saw the year before.
What was drawing double takes from passing motorists who were driving along the San Diego Freeway one summer in 2000 was an unmanned air vehicle, developed under contract through the U.S. Department Of Defense (aka) DoD, Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (aka) DARPA, for its Pegasus program.
The craft was built by Northrop-Grumman under the auspices of its super secret ISS Division, Unmanned Air Vehicle (aka) UAV, known as the X-47A was drawing double takes from passing motorists on California's San Diego Freeway that summer in 2000.
The X-47A UAV was actually resting atop a flatbed trailer while its semi-tractor truck was transporting it from its secret facility in Seal Beach, California northward along the San Diego 405 freeway beyond Los Angeles to a turnoff at California State Highway 14 past Mojave, California. From there, it would travel northeast past right the abandoned ghost town of Garlock to continue more test flights near the U.S. Naval Weapons Station at China Lake where only a deserted dry lakebed exists and is frequently but, secretly used as a test site out in the middle of the California desert near a town called Trona, California.
The X-47A transport's truck driver provided an off-the-cuff comment - as it turned out "helpful hint" - tipping off Northrop-Grumman engineers which led them to determine and then implement uncovering the X-47A for eventual public revelation along Southern California roadways.
It was then discovered that the X-47A's stealth composite skin coatings (dark-gray/Black-colored) would probably become damaged by a previously proposed tarp-cover wind buffeting reaction from freeway-traveled speeds of the truck, i.e. violently flapping and pounding the cover in an up and down motion right onto and into the craft's soft skin surface 3-M coatings.
Dozens of motorists contacted Los Angeles, California area police and news media outlets to report their having witnessed a UFO being trucked down the freeway on the back of a semi-tractor flatbed trailer truck. Many people including officials were absolutely mystified by the alien appearance of the X-47A unmanned combat air vehicle.
The X-47A is constructed of pre-formed composite materials, which don't require any metallic weldings, nuts, or, bolts. The stealthyied composite forms are actually "bonded" within the air vehicle's frame using a technique similar to skin grafting.
The triangle-shape or kite design of the X-47A reveals it as a virtually wingless and tailless combat air vehicle. Some of the X-47A controls used are 2 elevons and 2 panels on the upper and lower surface areas of its fixed delta-shape design hull.
Other more advance designed unmanned aerial vehicles use a small single horizontal array designed multi-motor built by BOEING at their Rocketdyne Division, referred to as the AeroSpike XRS-2200 engine that utilizes thrust vectoring for the air vehicle propulsion and navigation, instead of wings and flaps like most ordinary aircraft use. The F-117E stealth reconnaissance aircraft also uses a modified XRS-220 thrust vectoring multi-engine design with singular horizontal array motors.
The X-47A UAV was designed with stealth features and shaped like a triangle or kite. The Pegasus program's X-47A version is constructed largely of composite stealth-type materials that are designed to mask any metallic radar detections. This UAV measures approximately 27.9-ft. long and has a nearly triangular body and equal wingspan of 27.8-ft. wide. One of the first tasks of the Pegasus flight program was to demonstrate acceptable aerodynamic flying qualities suitable for operations from any aircraft carrier.
The "non-classified official report of the X-47A UAV's 'first' flight" was said to have occurred during the 4th quarter of 2001 at China Lake however, by all accounts including the documentation provided by the Los Angeles Times newspaper article on January 19th, 2001, the X-47A was well on its way to be test flown in the summer of 2000 at China Lake.
The original prototype, i.e. X-47 UAV, was initially in competition with Northup-Grumman and the secret BOEING "Phantom Works" (Seal Beach, CA) project designed UCAV demonstrator version. DARPA and the U.S. Navy were awarded 2 agreements for the first phase of the Unmanned Combat Air Vehicle - Navy (aka) UCAV-N, Advanced Technology Program (aka) ATP. Both Northrop-Grumman Corp. and BOEING had initially received $2-million to start the initial 15-month trade study, analyses, and preliminary design phase. And, both firms' demonstrators continued testing on through their Phase II (January 2002) UCAV programs. The potential of the unmanned approach to hazardous air missions resulted in their joint DARPA/Navy Naval UCAV program.
The U.S. Navy needed a sea-based, highly survivable, effective and affordable air power combat vehicle to conduct deep strike, suppression of enemy air defenses, and surveillance missions as part of an integrated air campaign. A Naval Unmanned Combat Air Vehicle can penetrate the enemy integrated air defense system and high-value targets with relative impunity without placing a pilot in harm's way. In addition, a UCAV-N capability that can maintain continuous vigilance will enable advanced surveillance, suppression of enemy air defenses, and immediate lethal strike for attacking time-critical targets.
The Defense Advanced research projects Agency (aka) DARPA and the U.S. Department of the Navy have made this a joint program to validate the critical technologies, processes and systems attributes and, have already demonstrated the technical feasibility of a UCAV-N system mission.
The goals of that joint DARPA/Navy project demonstrated the technical feasibility for a naval UCAV system to effectively and affordably conduct sea-based 21st Century suppression of enemy air defenses, strike, and surveillance missions within the emerging global command and control architecture.
At the conclusion of that 15-month preliminary design phase, the DoD decided to proceed with the second phase. DoD selected both contractors for the second phase to complete the development and demonstration of critical naval UCAV system technologies.
The UCAV-N ATP was the next step toward a revolutionary new weapon system that has now gone on to augment future manned systems as part of an integrated, post-2010-year force structure.
Future naval UCAV systems will continue fully utilizing the emerging information revolution. They will take advantage of multiple, real-time data sources and secure communication networks to plan for, and respond to, the dynamically changing battlefield.
By removing the pilot from the vehicle a new standard in aircraft affordability, low-risk and, supportability will be achieved. Capitalizing on technical advances by UCAVs will provide the U.S. with increased tactical deterrence at a fraction of the costs of current manned systems.
The Naval UCAV ATP takes advantage of the work that continues to be performed under the DARPA/Air Force UCAV Advanced Technology Demonstration Program. However, the Naval UCAV ATP adds surveillance to the mission set, and includes a significant focus on issues of Naval shipboard integration.
The first Pegasus version, i.e. X-47 UCAV, was designed to effectively and affordably conduct sea-based 21st Century surveillance, suppression of enemy air defenses and, strike missions within the emerging global command and control architecture.
The UCAV-N Advanced Technology Demonstration program was structured in 2 phases: First, analysis and preliminary design, and second, development and demonstration.
In July 2000, DARPA awarded two Section 845 agreements to Boeing and Northrop-Grumman for analysis and preliminary design of the UCAV-N air system, and those studies were completed in March 2001.
In April of 2001, the Phase I contracts were modified to permit more complete system preliminary design and to begin risk-reduction of critical technologies, processes and system attributes by implementing a "self-destruct" feature onboard every UCAV used. Successful conclusion of Phase I, led to a seamless transition into Phase II in January 2002.
Phase II was originally planned to be officially continued through December 2004 but is rumored to have already met completion in 2002.
The UCAV-N is envisioned as a ship-based, "first day of the war" force multiplier that complements manned systems by building and maintaining a common operational picture; providing targeting for other weapons and weapon systems; taking lethal action against designated fixed or moving targets; and collecting and disseminating post-strike information.
Northrop Grumman's ISS unveiled its design for a company-funded unmanned air vehicle in February of 2001 called Pegasus, which flew later that year to demonstrate emerging technologies emanating from its new Advanced Systems Development Center in El Segundo, Calif. The Pegasus UAV is scheduled for completion in the summer of 2001.
Northrop Grumman's efforts on Pegasus and UCAV-N are led by Northup-Grumman's ISS's Air Combat Systems business area in El Segundo, California.
After the X-47A UCAV's initial test flights, Northrop-Grumman built a larger and somewhat different design version UCAV bomber called, the X-47B.
This X-47-Series bomber or "B" designated version, have weapon bays capable of holding more than 4,000 pounds of deadly destructive munitions and much greater than the carrying capacity of the small BOEING X-45A, which appeared out of a NASA hangar on October 2001.
The X-47B however, still remains tighter cloaked in secrecy. It is also rumored to be more disc-shaped and able to also carry a pilot.
The UCAV-N (U.S. Navy designation) is a naval carrier-based tactical Penetrator air vehicle that is used on "first day of war" missions for surveillance, strike, and suppression of enemy air defenses. Just one control station can easily guide 4 UCAVs simultaneously.
The X-47B, a larger version of the X-47A UCAV, is equipped with an open-architecture avionics system designed by BAE Systems and, will use the Joint Precision Aircraft Landing System (aka) JPALS with its Shipboard Relative Global Positioning System (aka) SRGPS to land within 20 centimeters of a desired touchdown point.
The X-47B is equipped with dual-wheel main-mount landing gears. [NOTE: The X-47A version is too small to accommodate dual-wheel main-mount landing gears].
The X-47B incorporates technologies developed for many other aircraft defense programs such as the RQ-4A GlobalHawk UCAV, the RQ-8A FireScout VT/UAV (Vertical-Takeoff and landing version UCAV), the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet strike fighter, the E-8 Joint Surveillance and Targeting System aircraft, the E-2C Hawkeye radar warning aircraft and, the B-2D Spirit stealth bomber.
Pratt & Whitney - Canada produces their JT15D-5C turbofan version engine option for the X-47B as just one of its options for this UCAV. First flight of the X-47B was initially envisioned for late 2003 but rumors indicate that this feat has already been accomplished.
The X-47B prototype initial endurance was estimated to last 12-hours before re-fueling however, actual mission endurance time frames are classified due to multiple factors, e.g. optional engine design configurations and payload types used for different mission deployments.
During Phase III Engineering & Manufacturing Development (aka) EMD phase of that program was to originally and officially begin around 2007 however, that date might have already been pushed up considerably given actual photographs of the craft.
It has already conducted arrested landings and catapult launches at a land facility and has reportedly already made actual carrier launches and landings. Carrier operations include safe deck handling as well as launch and recovery that present the greatest challenges of any UCAV program.
Northrop-Grumman officials estimate that the manning level of an aircraft squadron could be cut in half by the use of UCAVs.