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SPECIAL COVERAGE: Living With Wildfires: San Diego Firestorm 10 Years Later

In A First, Unmanned Navy Jet Lands On Aircraft Carrier

Photo by Steve Helber

A Navy X-47B drone, seen here last month being launched off the aircraft carrier USS George H. W. Bush, successfully landed on the ship Wednesday, a first.

The U.S. Navy completed the first-ever landing of an unmanned aerial vehicle on an aircraft carrier today. The X-47B Unmanned Combat Air system landed on the deck of the USS George H.W. Bush off the coast of Virginia. The X-47B is an experimental flying wing with a UFO-like profile.

"It isn't very often you get a glimpse of the future," Navy Secretary Ray Mabus says. "Today, those of us aboard USS George H.W. Bush got that chance as we witnessed the X-47B make its first-ever arrested landing aboard an aircraft carrier."

The Navy drone completed its first catapult takeoff from the same ship in May; it also tried carrier-style landings at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, catching a tailhook in a heavy cable in much the same way planes do on a carrier.

"By evolving and integrating new technology like the X-47B and the unmanned aircraft to follow," Mabus says, "carriers will remain relevant throughout their 50-year lifespan."

The X-47B has a wingspan of just over 62 feet, and a range of more than 2,000 nautical miles, the Navy says. It can fly at "high subsonic" speeds, with a maximum altitude above 40,000 feet.

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit www.npr.org.

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