On August 1, 2004, the J-UCAS program achieved a key milestone when two Boeing
X-45A unmanned combat vehicle demonstrators operated together under the control
of a single pilot-operator.
coordinated flight test took place at Edwards Air Force Base, California, with
the two X-45A technological demonstrators departing in succession (four minutes
delay) from NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center also at Edwards Air Force Base.
Upon joining up over the test range, the two aircraft flew preset formations
that involved autonomous maneuvering to hold their relative positions. The
multiple air vehicle control flight demonstrated that these aircraft can fly the
same mission simultaneously with reduced workload for a single pilot-operator.
The multiple air vehicle coordinated flight operation is one of the keys of a
distributed weapon system that can effectively operate in a high-threat
environment. This capability, also called the collaborative mission execution,
depends strongly on the X-45A's four-dimensional (3D space+time) navigation
system and will be enhanced to allow up to four J-UCAS monitored by a single
pilot to fly in much closer formations. Once completed, the two aircraft
returned safely to their base.
The X-45As flew at approximately 15,000-ft (4,600 meters) and at Mach 0.6 (390
mph or 650 kph) with a lateral separation of more than one mile (1.85 km)
maintained during the flight. Aircraft state information was shared between them
using an inter-vehicle Link-16 data link.
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