In aviation first, US Navy lands drone aircraft on carrier


An unmanned "Predator" drone flies near the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson December 5, 1995 off the coast of California.


Petty Officer 3rd Class Jeffrey S. Viano/U.S. Navy

The US Navy on Wednesday successfully landed its first unmanned drone aircraft onto a carrier off the coast of Virginia, hailing the difficult maneuver as a "historic event."

This is important for US naval operations worldwide because it means the Navy will be able to land aircraft without needing to rely as much on foreign bases, Russia Today observed

Yet it was no easy feat: Sailors had to use complex algorithms to land the craft, identified by Politico under the code name “Salty Dog 502,”  onto a moving ship. 

"By evolving and integrating new technology like the X-47B [AKA Salty Dog 502] and the unmanned aircraft to follow, carriers will remain relevant throughout their 50-year lifespan," Navy Secretary Ray Mabus said in a celebratory press release on Wednesday

In fact, anticipation was such that the Navy aimed to put the two demonstrator semi-autonomous X-47B drones on display, provided they were to complete the operation successfully, according to The Wall Street Journal. Given Wednesday's achievement, it is presumed they will soon be on their way to Maryland's Naval Air Station museum and another museum in Florida.

The move also paves the way for the US Navy to include more drones in future operations.

“Navy air wings of the future will include an appropriate mix of both manned and unmanned aircraft,” Navy Chief of Information Rear Admiral John Kirby said, according to Politico. “Today’s test is a big first step in realizing that goal," he added.