back to article US Navy's robot stealth carrier plane unveiled

US aerospace'n'killware goliath Northrop Grumman yesterday took the wraps off one of the most advanced robot aircraft in the world, the X-47B Unmanned Combat Air System (UCAS). The X-47B is intended to operate from the flight deck of US Navy aircraft carriers, carrying out entire missions including air-to-air refuelling without …


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  1. Steve

    Hmm, Stealth Drone

    Hope they get the electronics spot on, Can you imagine them "Loosing" it!

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I for one.... really sick of robot jokes ;o)

    If they are making robot shooters, isn't it time they started making robot targets? I mean, it's only fair.

  3. Warhelmet
    Black Helicopters

    I for one...

    Welcome our new robotic stealth flying wing overloads. Sorry, overlords.

  4. Rob Elliott
    Black Helicopters

    Behold the iPlane!

    Does anybody else think this looks like it was designed at apple?

  5. james

    we cant remember who struck first ....

    but we know it was us that scorched the skys etc etc

    i'm only using that quote because I can't remember the "and then it became self aware " one from terminator.

  6. Doug Glass

    No Doubt

    Let's hope they don't lose it either.

  7. Robb Dunphy

    Stealth, that terrible movie

    I suddenly have images of that movie....oh dear.

  8. Anonymous Coward

    War Machine

    That looks suspiciously like the Martian war machines from the Jeff Wayne's LP "War of the Worlds"

  9. Anonymous Coward

    I've been saying ...

    ... for about 7-8 years now, that with today's technology, you can replace most pilots with software. I figure you can replace 50% of a Navy's Warfare Officers with software, too.

    Alas, since Admirals serve no useful function, I have not yet figured out how to replace them.

  10. caffeine addict


    I hope the damn thing flies more level than it sits on the ground. There's not a single level line in the whole picture.

    Yeah, I know I'm being picky, but it's a bloody press photo...

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    Carrier Command...

    It'll be like a live action version of the Carrier Command game.

    Quick question - Why does it need that "cockpit" when its a robot? Surely it just needs a camera.

  12. Gordon Pryra

    Why has it got windows?

    Unmanned? My hairy arse it is

  13. Aristotles slow and dimwitted horse
    Thumb Down

    No match...

    For a properly prepared and combat ready Mig or Eurofighter.

  14. Bad Beaver
    Thumb Down

    @ Robb Dunphy

    Yeah, kinda beat me too it, I was all "autonomous armed stealth plane — seen that before...". Luckily I never got to see the movie but even from the trailers I could very well make out that this is something that pretty much has no other choice than to go very, very wrong. And different from C-movies with A-budgets you cannot simply employ some ludicrous plot device in order to clean up the mess.

  15. james marley

    @Peter Flynn

    "Quick question - Why does it need that "cockpit" when its a robot? Surely it just needs a camera."

    Duh, so the robot can see out!

  16. Iain


    Maybe I am just welcoming our autonomous stealth killing overlords, but that is such a good picture I want it as my desktop. And may enforce it on all the marks I administer.

  17. g e


    Just the windscreen makes you wonder... do they have a robot sitting in it flying it?? Is it a full-on plane capable of being flown by a fleshy but the clever bit is they made an android to fly it instead?

  18. Anonymous Coward

    Carrier traps difficult?

    For human pilots, yes. However, the F/A-18's fully automated ILS hits the 3rd wire each time. It does it so well, that it is very seldom used as it provides the pilot with an unfair advantages (your traps are scored by your squadron mates as part of an internal squadron "competition").

    And on a cat launch, the Hornet driver needs to grab (with both hands) the hand holds at the top front of the cockpit before being launched.. at that part is fully automated.

    So I fail to see why UAV launches and traps would be a big deal when these are already successfully automated in the F/A-18.

    The big deal instead is, "Can the UAV, without human intelligence onboard, operate as well?". What happens with lost radio comms? Jamming? Sudden changes (as there often are) in the combat environment that requires an immediate and fast tactical response? Know fact that computers can do specific things "better" than humans - like hitting the 3rd wire. Also a know fact that even the most advanced computers fail miserably at tasks that requires common sense.

  19. Peter D'Hoye

    @Peter Flynn

    I thought that was one big air inlet for the engine, not a window....

  20. storng.bare.durid

    And they have a plan...

    Do you not see the faint red blip there? It's a Cylon.

  21. The Badger

    Re: Carrier traps difficult?

    "computers can do specific things "better" than humans - like hitting the 3rd wire"

    Indeed. Docking was easier in Elite with the docking computer, too. What are those pilots squealing about? Man up and get with the programme (and, indeed, the program), for goodness' sake! :-)

  22. Tom Chiverton Silver badge


    That's the air intake to the jet, not a window !

  23. Dodgy Geezer Silver badge
    Black Helicopters

    Out of the mouths...

    "Also a know fact that even the most advanced computers fail miserably at tasks that requires common sense."

    So the implication is that most of our politicians have been replaced by computers? I should have known....

  24. Graham Marsden

    The Top Guns...

    > won't be looking forward to telling their children that there's no longer any way to win one's glorious wings of gold and the respect of the nation

    Not to mention it'll make it much more difficult to try to get Kelly McGillis' knickers off in the Ladies Room...

    ... Mine's the one with the off-key copy of "You've Lost That Loving Feeling" in the pocket.

  25. Stephen May

    @ Peter Flynn

    It's not the cockpit, it's the air intake.

  26. This post has been deleted by its author

  27. Daniel Wilkie


    "Also a know fact that even the most advanced computers fail miserably at tasks that requires common sense."

    It's also a known fact that even the most advanced humans fail miserably at tasks that require common sense too. Puny fleshlings.

  28. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Ever heard of an iron?

    has that flag been screwed up in a box all its life?

  29. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Ants are expendable

    that is all.

  30. Rob
    Paris Hilton


    I think this is the one your after....

    "The Skynet Funding Bill is passed. The system goes on-line August 4th, 1997. Human decisions are removed from strategic defense. Skynet begins to learn at a geometric rate. It becomes self-aware at 2:14 a.m. Eastern time, August 29th. In a panic, they try to pull the plug."

    Paris.... I dunno, something funny involving human decisions being removed or pulling the plug, I'll leave it up to you lot, it's been one of those days.

  31. This post has been deleted by its author

  32. Ross Fleming


    Nonsense. From what I hear, the future's not set and there's no fate but what we make for ourselves.

    Or in other words, we're doomed.

  33. Doug Glass

    Call Sign ...

    ... Tin Man.

  34. Anonymous Coward


    I wave my hand at the dumb lumps of lead that want to eat this waste of money, I thought that this stuff was because pilots is too expensive to let die. Actually, if they have been practising shooting wump-rats on Tatoonine, they are cheap.

    And do you think that people will get patriotic over our robots vs their robots? No sir. Not unless the robots turn up in a wheelchair, shed a tear at the national anthem and suck ass when given a medal.

    We are sending Pacman to war, not Wall-e.

  35. Chris Seiter

    Infinite Air Time?

    Wasn't there a fleet of Star Destroyers that hyperjumped from system to system at random intervals so it wasn't able to be detected? Is this iPlane going to just circle the target, I mean, Earth waiting for it's next mission or refueling?

  36. Robert Synnott

    RE: No Match

    "For a properly prepared and combat ready Mig or Eurofighter." - Well, ignoring the issue that there ISN'T really a properly prepared Eurofighter, I doubt that's its intended function. The US has largely shifted its military policy from nukes and high-tech fighters to 'how many brown people with sticks can we kill today?'.

  37. Big Bear
    Black Helicopters

    @Ants are expendable

    Wait, wait, wait, wait... are you telling me that I've got it wrong, and that I actually need to, for one, welcome our miniscule multisegemented hard carapaced six limbed hive mind Queen Ant overlord, she whom commands the winged autonomotons bearing lethal silicon death from yon clouded skies above?

    Black Helos - who flys the watchants watching the other ants?

  38. Murray Pearson

    That's a window, not an air intake, fools.


    Now, as to why they'd need the huge expanse of glass, I dunno. Maybe to fit an IMAX camera for the latest blockbuster (sic) hit?

  39. jack horner

    Cheap knock offs...

    So any bets on how long it will be before some peasant with a $25 AK shoots down one of these and sells the bits to China?


  40. Lee

    @ And they have a plan...

    Cylon.??? What are they doing with tea up there??? T

    They have a tea drinking robot that is impressive...wonder if it has it's own robo butler to bring the tea...

  41. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @The Badger

    Actually, docking was easier in Elite with the docking computer switched off. That thing had a death-wish.

  42. Anonymous Coward
    Black Helicopters

    @ Murray Pearson

    um... no. It IS an air intake. Perhaps one with a reflective plastic cover to keep out prying eyes and unwanted bits, but an intake nonetheless.

    BTW, will someone PLEASE send these id10ts copies of the Terminator movies before it's too...

    Wait, who are you and how did you get in here? AUUUUUGGHH!


  43. Kibble

    @ Aristotles slow and dimwitted horse

    This is a stealth aircraft, not a dog fighter. It's designed to carry out missions like any other UAV but is designed to be nearly invisible to radar. One would think that it's main mission would be to deliver ordnance to specific static targets. Although it has nearly an unlimited range, the hang time over a specific point is limited since the required fuel tankers are not stealthed. However, just getting in and out unseen with pictures of the enemy is a big plus for the war machine.

  44. Aidan Whitehall
    Black Helicopters

    @"It's a window"

    Doesn't look like a window to me...

  45. storng.bare.durid

    @Aidan Whitehall

    It's not a frakkin' air intake or window, I tells ya.

    It's that black bit with the red blip that goes whoop, whoop... whoop, whoop... For the last time, it's a frakkin' Cylon.

    The link you gave

    ... just shows a happy space invader. (Why? Cos he's just landed at the northrop grumman base innit?)


  46. Bill
    Thumb Down

    I don't like robots...

    especially flying ones!

  47. Anonymous Coward
    Black Helicopters

    Gosh, what plane does this remind you of?

    Any one ever see a nice looking Navy-like remote controlled B2 bomber? (Take a look and see if this does not look like the B2?)

  48. Deon Lasini

    Can anyone say Carrier Command?

    so they have the remote control steath aircraift , now they just need the remote tanks next

  49. Paul Smith


    that they're worshipping it by candle light.

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