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U.S. Navy testing unmanned fighter jet

by James Meikle

You know when you hear about UFO sightings being explained away as test flights of new military aircrafts? Well, you could quite easily forgive someone for confusing a new U.S. Navy jet prototype with the spaceship from flight of the navigator. Just take a look at the photo below.

This is the X-47B: a prototype for an unmanned fighter jet which is currently being tested by the U.S. Navy. The jet is being developed and tested by international security company Northrop Grumman. Does anyone else find it disturbing when you first hear of a multi-billion dollar military tech manufacturer and think “Why have I never heard that name before?”, “Who owns them?” and “I wonder if they read my blog posts?”

Maybe I’m just a little delicate and paranoid today, but for some reason I find the jet’s name really disturbing too… X-47B…X-47B… What the hell happened to the X-47A? And why do they have to start the name with an X? It’s the most threatening letter in the alphabet! In order to protect my fragile little mind the jet will henceforth be referred to as the Fluffalo.

The Fluffalo has been designed to be the first unmanned aircraft that can take off from, and land on, an aircraft carrier. The testing however has not yet reached that stage. The most recent test was to fly the Fluffalo in its cruise configuration, allowing engineers to successfully retract and extend the landing gear under flight conditions.

While drone spy planes and bombers have been used for some time, producing an unmanned fighter jet poses a different challenge. Due to the nature of air-to-air combat fighter jets have to be capable of performing extreme aerial manoeuvres at very high speeds. Being able to outpace and outmanoeuvre enemy fighter jets is a key component of a military strategy involving aerial dominance.

Interestingly, without a pilot to worry about, engineers will only have to concern themselves with the effect g-forces have on the plane. Not having a pilot could lead to jets capable of performing manoeuvres involving g-forces that a pilot could not withstand.

Apparently unmanned aircraft are all the rage with the US Air Force training more drone operators last year than fighter and bomber pilots combined. I’m considering starting a rumour that they’ve been in touch with Nintendo about buying a bulk shipment of Wii controllers, but I’m a little concerned that I could be right, and end up being water-boarded in Guantanamo Bay by a large man asking who my sources are. I think I’d answer “Deep Throat”.

Now if you’ll excuse me I’m off to sit in my bomb shelter with a pot on my head and delete every letter “X” from my survival books.

What are your thoughts on the project? Share your comments in the box below.

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