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Navy's New X-47B Aerial Drone Could Upgrade Its Reach to Over 3,000 Nautical Miles


Adding a super-extended mission range.

The Navy's newest unmanned stealth drone looks like a cross between the Silver Surfer and a UFO, but there are now plans in the works to add  a super-extended operating range to its capabilities.

The X-47B drone is scheduled to have a pilotless, in-air refueling capacity by 2014 that will upgrade its in flight range well beyond 3,000 nautical miles, according to Wired.

That's 10 times the mission capable range of a traditional manned fighter, which would mean that the stealth drone can operate well-beyond the reported range of China's "carrier-killer" Dongfeng 21-D missile.

The Carrier-killer missile has a reported range of 2,700 nautical miles and has been considered a threat by some analysts to the U.S. carrier fleet since Beijing officially announced the program last summer.

Carrier trials of the X-47B drone are slated to start on the USS George Washington in 2013.

The X-47B drone is part of the U.S. Navy’s Unmanned Combat Air System Carrier Demonstration (UCAS-D) program. UCAS-D could become the workhorse of the Navy's carrier-based aerial fleet.  Eventually, it could lead to the deployment of carrier-launched drones around the world without risking naval aviators. The absence of a pilot is also key to the extended range of the drones.

The X-47B drone took its first recorded flight in September. You can check out the YouTube video below:

(H/T Business Insider)

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