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GKN Aerospace Supports X-47B Unmanned Combat Air System

  • Tuesday, 10th March 2009
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Northrop Grumman unveiled its X-47B for the Navy’s Unmanned Combat Air System Carrier Demonstration (UCAS-D) with GKN Aerospace-produced outer wings.

The wings were GKN’s latest deliveries under a $50 million contract in which GKN Aerospace has full design authority and manufacturing responsibility for the X-47B centre fuselage section and wings. GKN also designed and manufactured the air vehicle’s bay covers, actuated doors and composite skins – which cover the majority of the airframe surface. The centre fuselage, composite skins, and actuated doors were delivered during 2007 and 2008.

The purpose of the UCAS-D effort is to develop and demonstrate an aircraft carrier suitable, low observable-relevant, unmanned air system in the shipboard environment.

Kevin Cummings, President and CEO, GKN Aerospace – Aerostructures North America commented:

“”Delivery of the outer wing panel ship set culminated a 36-month production effort for our engineering and manufacturing teams as they supported the assembly of the first unmanned aircraft designed specifically to withstand the forces involved in launch and recovery of the air vehicle from the deck of an aircraft carrier. We are proud to be a member of the pioneering Northrop Grumman X-47 team and look forward to the planned November 2009 first flight of this transformational unmanned air vehicle.””

The wing contains an aluminium substructure covered with carbon epoxy skins measuring approximately 16 feet by 4 feet. Each wing supports a spoiler flight control surface and hosts fully integrated electrical and hydraulic routings. The design includes a wing-fold capability, enabling the air vehicle to attain a small footprint for aircraft carrier on-board stowage. Wing design was completed at GKN’s Engineering Development Center in Nashville, Tennessee, with manufacture taking place at the St Louis, Missouri facility.


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