ABOARD THE USS GEORGE H.W. BUSH - An unmanned US jet carried out a maneuver on Wednesday long considered the most challenging in naval aviation - landing aboard an aircraft carrier - in a milestone that lifted expectations about basing drones with reconnaissance and strike capabilities on ships.
A Northrop Grumman X-47B aircraft nicknamed "Salty Dog 502" slipped out of a cloudy sky off the Virginia coast after a flight from Patuxent River Naval Air Station and dropped its tailhook to snag an arresting cable on the deck of the USS George H.W. Bush sailing in the Atlantic Ocean.
"It's not often that you get a chance to see the future, but that's what we got to do today," said Navy Secretary Ray Mabus, who witnessed the landing and likened it to the first manned aircraft landing on a carrier a century ago.
The achievement came as the Navy mulls the role that new ship-carried drones may play in the future for the US military, while some experts question whether these unmanned aircraft are needed by the Navy at all.