Unmanned stealth plane achieves 1st cruise mode flight

Steven Hodson

The military sure seems to have a great big love affair with unmanned flight, or anything that has the word 'drone' attached to it, and that love affair just got a big boost today as Northrop Grumman's X-47B, an unmanned stealth plane, achieved cruise mode speed for the first time in testing.

The flight which took place on September 30, 2011, at the Edwards Air Force Base, saw the unmanned plane retract its landing gear and fly in formation for the first time. The other purpose of the flight, to test navigation hardware and software, also got the big thumbs up.

With a wingspan of 62 feet the plane has a range of over 2,100 nautical miles and a payload capacity of 4,500 pounds. It can also fly at high subsonic speeds which will make it faster than either of its drone brethren, the Predator and Reaper.

This is considered to be a major step towards the planes going into production and being shipped out to aircraft carriers.

Having passed this stage of its testing the X-47B has surpassed expectations and Northrup Grumman is looking forward to the next round of tests to further prove its unmanned stealth plane.

via CNet