USAF designation: X-47B
DARPA Program: UCAV-N (Unmanned Combat Air Vehicle - Navy)
Powerplant: 1 x 105.7 kN (23770 lb) P&W F100-PW-220E turbofan
In April 2003, DARPA combined the UCAV-N program with the on-going USAF/DARPA UCAV program into the joint DARPA/USAF/Navy J-UCAV program, later renamed J-UCAS (Joint Unmanned Combat Air Systems). The goal of J-UCAS was to demonstrate the technical feasibility, military utility and operational value for a network-centric, land- and carrier-based unmanned system of high performance and weaponized unmanned air vehicles to effectively and affordably prosecute 21st century combat missions, including Suppression of Enemy Air Defenses; Electronic Attack; Precision Targeting & Strike; and Intelligence, Surveillance & Reconnaissance within the emerging global command and control architecture.
Northrop Grumman's Integrated Systems Sector had the lead responsibility to assemble the best industry team possible to win the J-UCAS Program. Teamed with Lockheed Martin and Pratt & Whitney, the Northrop Grumman J-UCAS Team developed its capture strategy based on leveraging "best of breed" subsystems, components, technologies and processes from other relevant DoD programs. Besides demonstrating the technical feasibility of the J-UCAS concept, the Northrop team was to demonstrate the operational utility of the X-47B and prepare the way for an accelerated development and production program. Northrop Grumman apparently decided that, although lessons learned from the development and testing of the X-47A Pegasus could and would be used in support of the J-UCAS program, further flight tests of the X-47A would not help the development of its forthcoming J-UCAS demonstrator, designated X-47B.
The airframe of the X-47B did not have much in common with that of the X-47A. It was significantly larger, had a more powerful P&W F100 turbofan engine, and redesigned outer wing sections and intake/exhaust configurations. The wing extensions provided for longer range and better low-speed characteristics, and were foldable to reduce parking space on the aircraft carrier. The payload capacity for J-UCAS was to be 2040 kg (4500 lb), representing two GBU-31/B JDAM (Joint Direct Attack Munition) GPS/INS-guided bombs. Northrop Grumman was under contract to build two (originally three) X-47Bs, and flight testing, together with the rival Boeing X-45C, was expected to begin in 2007.
On Aug 19, 2004, Northrop Grumman was awarded $1.04 billion to Continue Work on the X-47B program. The Northrop Grumman team would produce two full-scale X-47B unmanned combat air vehicle demonstrators (mostly composite materials by Scaled Composites) and two mission control stations. Specific program performance objectives included an air vehicle that would have a strike radius of 1,500 nautical miles autonomously, or fly to a point 1,000 nm away and remain there for two hours, all the while carrying a 4,500-pound payload. The J-UCAS development effort was defined in terms of "spirals". The X-45A UCAV demonstrator was "Spiral 0", while the X-47B and Boeing's X-45C represented "Spiral 1". Later spirals were to further enhance the mission capabilities of the system by integrating more sensor and weapon options. The ultimate goal had been labeled J-UOS (J-UCAS Objective System) by DARPA.
In early January 2006, it was reported that the J-UCAS program had been cancelled in favor of separate follow-on programs by the USAF and U.S. Navy, and—in case of the Air Force—the development of new manned long-range bomber aircraft. Official confirmation of the cancellation has not come forward yet.
Population: 2 demonstrators ordered (along with 2 control stations)