If you saw it in person, you’d probably think it was a UFO, too.
That’s what happened when the Navy trucked its batwing-shaped drone of the future from California to its new testing bed here in Maryland. Across the country, 911 switchboards lit up with reports that mysterious trucks were hauling a spaceship. In truth, it was a demonstration model for something the Navy desperately wants: to launch an armed, spying, stealthy drone from an aircraft carrier, one of the hardest maneuvers in aviation, conducted with the click of a mouse. But up close, you can see why people freaked out.
Not many people have seen the X-47B, as the Navy calls it, up close: its Northrop Grumman manufacturers and its remote Navy test pilots, mostly. Until Tuesday, when the Navy program executive office in charge of developing what will be known as the UCLASS — for Unmanned Carrier Launched Airborne Surveillance and Strike System — let reporters see the X-47B in the metallic flesh.