Developed by Northrop Grumman as part of the US Navy’s Unmanned Air Combat System (UCAS,) the X-4B is tailless, strike fighter-sized unmanned aircraft.
Initially, two demonstrator tests were planned initially to go through a three-year test program. However, their performance was so consistent that preliminary tests ended only after 16 flights.
The plane marked a milestone in drone development as it was the first time a UAV catapulted off an aircraft carrier.
The X-47B also accomplished the first arrested landing of a UAV on a carrier at sea, further propelling the program to create the first carrier operational drone.
A True Flying Wing
Just like any popular drone, the design of the device features a defined triangular shape. The aircraft was a true flying wing, given that it didn’t show to have any obvious vertical surfaces just like the Northrop Grumman B-2 Spirit stealth bomber.
The plane can reach a cruising speed of 685 miles per hour or a high subsonic of about 0.45 Mach. It also managed to reach a ceiling of approximately 40,000 feet.
Furthermore, the drone features electro-optics, infrared, synthetic aperture radar, inverse SAR, ground moving target indicator, electronic support measures, and maritime moving target indicator sensors.
Despite its success, the aircraft eventually raised concerns about costs. It also proved to be insufficiently stealthy for the needs of the project.
The X-47 B’s legacy was eventually passed down to the X-47 C which may restore the honor of its predecessor, should it meet the requirements the Navy expects from it.