Good stuff here. The Navy has been quietly developing what is likely to be a game-changing capability: a pilotless, stealthy combat aircraft that can operate off a carrier.
The technical challenges are pretty astounding. A carrier landing is tough under the best of circumstances for a human pilot. The X-47 requires a computer to do it. And of course there are all the usual issues with operating a unmanned aerial vehicle, compounded with flying them out of a mobile, seagoing base.
But unlike some defense programs, this one is on track.
That was the X-47 flying with its gear up, a project milestone. And the Navy expects these things to be landing on carriers in the next 18 months or so. It's not exactly fodder for a Top Gun remake, but as far as technological impact, it's hard to overstate the value of being able to strike first, undetected, without putting a person in harm's way.