Something happened on the deck of an aircraft carrier off the coast of Virginia on Tuesday that could eventually ripple all the way back to one of the biggest factories in the St. Louis area.
The X-47B took off.
It was a “watershed event,” said the Navy’s head of aviation, the first-ever launch of an unmanned combat drone at sea. While the Northrop Grumman-built X-47B hasn’t yet stuck a carrier landing — one of the hardest feats in all of aviation — Navy officials think that’ll happen this summer, and they hope that by the end of the decade drones will be a big part of their air combat fleet.
All of which raises some big questions about the future of the plane that makes up much of the Navy’s air combat fleet today: The F/A-18 Super Hornet.