Two X-45A Demonstrate Multi-Vehicle Operations

Released on Monday, August 2, 2004
United States of America
J-UCAS - Joint Unmanned Combat Air System
km - kilometre
NASA - National Aeronautics & Space Administration
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.

The 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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