Unlike most of the military aircraft that Northrop Grumman designs and manufactures, the X-47A Pegasus was not built because of demand from the U.S. military. Instead, Northrop constructed the X-47A Pegasus at their own cost. Northrop wanted to prove that building prototypes of unmanned vehicles could be done cheaply and quickly without sacrificing quality. Northrop engineers were especially interested to design unmanned airplanes that could be automatically operated from aircraft carriers with minimal assistance from humans.
The X-47A Pegasus is a tailless airplane constructed from mostly composite materials, decreasing its overall weight and fuel consumption. Composite materials offer the additional advantage of requiring far fewer fasteners which means less overall drag and less likelihood of radar detection.
The X-47A Pegasus completed its first test flight in February 2003. By then, the airplane had been incorporated into the Joint Unmanned Combat Air Systems (J-UCAS) project. This was a project that involved both the U.S. Air Force and the Navy. The X-47A Pegasus was one of two unmanned aircraft in the J-UCAS program. The other unmanned aircraft was Boeing‘s X-45C.
In August 2004, Northrop Grumman was awarded a contract to develop two full-scale X-47B unmanned aircraft. The X-47B is a larger version of the X-47A, with the prototype expected to be completed by early 2010. Northrop Grumman will also be responsible for developing two mission control systems for the unmanned aircraft.
Maximum speed: High subsonic
Combat mission radius: 1,500 plus nm strike capability, or 1,000 nm distance with two hour loiter time carrying a 4,500 pound payload
Ceiling: 30,000′ plus (9.144 km)
Length: 8.50 m
Wingspan: 8.47 m
Height: 1.86 m
Empty weight: 1,740 kg
Maximum weight: 2,678 kg
Performance Maneuverability: Plus 3 Gs
Payload: 2,040 kg
Engine(s): Pratt and Whitney Canada JT15D-5C turbofan engine
Contractor: Northrop Grumman