Norfolk: The US Navy will attempt to land a drone the size of a fighter jet aboard an aircraft carrier for the first time on Wednesday, showcasing the military`s capability to have a computer program perform one of the most difficult tasks a pilot is asked to do.
If all goes as planned, a successful landing of the X-47B experimental aircraft will mean the Navy can move forward with its plans to develop another unmanned aircraft that will join the fleet alongside traditional airplanes to provide around-the-clock surveillance while also possessing a strike capability.
The aircraft`s success would pave the way for the US to launch unmanned aircraft without the need to obtain permission from other countries to use their bases.
The X-47B experimental aircraft will take off from Naval Air Station Patuxent River in Maryland before approaching the USS George H W Bush, which is operating off the coast of Virginia.
The drone will try to land by deploying a tailhook that will catch a wire aboard the ship and bring it to a quick stop, just like normal fighter jets do.
The manoeuver is known as an arrested landing and has previously only been done by the drone on land at Patuxent River. Landing on a ship that is constantly moving while navigating through turbulent air behind the aircraft carrier is seen as a more difficult manoeuver.
"Your grandchildren and great grandchildren and mine will be reading about this historic event in their history books. This is not trivial, nor is it something that came lightly," said Rear Adm Mat Winter, the Navy`s program executive officer for unmanned aviation and strike weapons.
Just like a traditional airplane, if the landing has to be called off for any reason at the last second, it can perform a touch-and-go manoeuver. It performed nine such manoeuvers in May, when it also took off from an aircraft carrier for the first time.