In April 2015, Northrop Grumman’s X-47B Unmanned Combat Air Vehicle Demonstrator successfully completed an autonomous aerial refueling (AAR) test by plugging into an aerial refueling basket behind an Omega Air KC-707. The Salty Dog 502, one of the two UCAS-D aircraft of the X-47B program, was the aircraft that performed the test off the coast of Maryland. Originally, the aircraft was not going to receive funding for aerial refueling, but the money ended up coming through for what is slated to be the final test of the historic X-47B.
The AAR in set to be the last for the two X-47B stealth killer drone technology demonstrators (the other being “Salty Dog 501?). At the end of this testing phase, the two unmanned aircraft will be retired and probably donated to a museum or stored at the “boneyard”, the Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group (AMARG) at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Arizona. In fact, the X-47B is just a technology demonstrator and, as such, it’s still quite different from the planned Navy’s Unmanned Carrier Launched Surveillance and Strike (UCLASS).
Headquartered in West Falls Church, Virginia, the Northrop Grumman Corporation is an American global aerospace and defense technology company that produces aircraft carriers, military aircraft and vessels, missile defense systems, satellites, and information technology. It was formed in 1994 when Northrop purchased Grumman. Northrop Grumman is also a leading global security company providing innovative systems, products and solutions in unmanned systems, cyber, C4ISR, and logistics and modernization to government and commercial customers worldwide. In 2010, it was the fourth-largest defense contractor in the world and, in 2011, ranked number 72 of the Fortune 500 list of the largest corporations in America. The company employs over 68,000 people worldwide and in 2012 reported revenues of USD$25 billion.
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