U.S. Navy makes aviation history

The U.S. Navy made aviation history by launching an unmanned jet - the bat-winged X-47B stealth drone - off an aircraft carrier for the first time, taking an important step toward expanded use of drones by the American military. The X-47B and its successors are seen as a potential answer to the threat posed by medium-range anti-ship missiles developed by China and Iran.

ATLANTIC OCEAN - MAY 14: In this handout released by the U.S. Navy, An X-47B Unmanned Combat Air System (UCAS) demonstrator launches from the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77) May 14, 2013 in the Atlantic Ocean. George H.W. Bush is the first aircraft carrier to sucessfully catapult-launch an unmanned aircraft from its flight deck. The Navy plans to have unmanned aircraft on each of its carriers to be used for surveillance and be armed and used in combat roles. (Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Timothy Walter/U.S. Navy via Getty Images)
Navy Launches First Drone From Aircraft Carrier
ATLANTIC OCEAN - MAY 14: In this handout released by the U.S. Navy, An X-47B Unmanned Combat Air System (UCAS) demonstrator launches from the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77) May 14, 2013 in the Atlantic Ocean. George H.W. Bush is the first aircraft carrier to sucessfully catapult-launch an unmanned aircraft from its flight deck. The Navy plans to have unmanned aircraft on each of its carriers to be used for surveillance and be armed and used in combat roles. (Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Timothy Walter/U.S. Navy via Getty Images)
ATLANTIC OCEAN - MAY 14: In this handout released by the U.S. Navy, An X-47B Unmanned Combat Air System (UCAS) demonstrator launches from the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77) May 14, 2013 in the Atlantic Ocean. George H.W. Bush is the first aircraft carrier to sucessfully catapult-launch an unmanned aircraft from its flight deck. The Navy plans to have unmanned aircraft on each of its carriers to be used for surveillance and be armed and used in combat roles. (Photo by U.S. Navy via Getty Images)
Navy Launches First Drone From Aircraft Carrier
ATLANTIC OCEAN - MAY 14: In this handout released by the U.S. Navy, An X-47B Unmanned Combat Air System (UCAS) demonstrator launches from the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77) May 14, 2013 in the Atlantic Ocean. George H.W. Bush is the first aircraft carrier to sucessfully catapult-launch an unmanned aircraft from its flight deck. The Navy plans to have unmanned aircraft on each of its carriers to be used for surveillance and be armed and used in combat roles. (Photo by U.S. Navy via Getty Images)
ATLANTIC OCEAN - MAY 14: In this handout released by the U.S. Navy, Sailors move an X-47B Unmanned Combat Air System (UCAS) demonstrator onto an aircraft elevator aboard the aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77) May 14, 2013 in the Atlantic Ocean. George H.W. Bush is scheduled to be the first aircraft carrier to catapult-launch an unmanned aircraft from its flight deck. The Navy plans to have unmanned aircraft on each of its carriers to be used for surveillance and be armed and used in combat roles. (Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Timothy Walter/U.S. Navy via Getty Images)
Navy Launches First Drone From Aircraft Carrier
ATLANTIC OCEAN - MAY 14: In this handout released by the U.S. Navy, Sailors move an X-47B Unmanned Combat Air System (UCAS) demonstrator onto an aircraft elevator aboard the aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77) May 14, 2013 in the Atlantic Ocean. George H.W. Bush is scheduled to be the first aircraft carrier to catapult-launch an unmanned aircraft from its flight deck. The Navy plans to have unmanned aircraft on each of its carriers to be used for surveillance and be armed and used in combat roles. (Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Timothy Walter/U.S. Navy via Getty Images)
ATLANTIC OCEAN - MAY 14: In this handout released by the U.S. Navy, An X-47B Unmanned Combat Air System (UCAS) demonstrator is lifted on an aircraft elevator aboard the aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77) May 14, 2013 in the Atlantic Ocean. George H.W. Bush is scheduled to be the first aircraft carrier to catapult-launch an unmanned aircraft from its flight deck. The Navy plans to have unmanned aircraft on each of its carriers to be used for surveillance and be armed and used in combat roles. (Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Timothy Walter/U.S. Navy via Getty Images)
Navy Launches First Drone From Aircraft Carrier
ATLANTIC OCEAN - MAY 14: In this handout released by the U.S. Navy, An X-47B Unmanned Combat Air System (UCAS) demonstrator is lifted on an aircraft elevator aboard the aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77) May 14, 2013 in the Atlantic Ocean. George H.W. Bush is scheduled to be the first aircraft carrier to catapult-launch an unmanned aircraft from its flight deck. The Navy plans to have unmanned aircraft on each of its carriers to be used for surveillance and be armed and used in combat roles. (Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Timothy Walter/U.S. Navy via Getty Images)
NAVAL AIR STATION PATUXENT RIVER, MD - MAY 14: In this handout released by the U.S. Navy courtesy of Northrop Grumman, the X-47B Unmanned Combat Air System (UCAS) demonstrator lands after completing the first launch of an unmanned aerial vehicle from an aircraft carrier May 14, 2013 at Naval Air Staion Patuxent River, Maryland. George H.W. Bush is the first aircraft carrier to successfully catapult-launch an unmanned aircraft from its flight deck. The Navy plans to have unmanned aircraft on each of its carriers to be used for surveillance and be armed and used in combat roles. (Photo by U.S. Navy/Northrop Grumman via Getty Images)
Navy Launches First Drone From Aircraft Carrier
NAVAL AIR STATION PATUXENT RIVER, MD - MAY 14: In this handout released by the U.S. Navy courtesy of Northrop Grumman, the X-47B Unmanned Combat Air System (UCAS) demonstrator lands after completing the first launch of an unmanned aerial vehicle from an aircraft carrier May 14, 2013 at Naval Air Staion Patuxent River, Maryland. George H.W. Bush is the first aircraft carrier to successfully catapult-launch an unmanned aircraft from its flight deck. The Navy plans to have unmanned aircraft on each of its carriers to be used for surveillance and be armed and used in combat roles. (Photo by U.S. Navy/Northrop Grumman via Getty Images)
ATLANTIC OCEAN - MAY 13: In this handout released by the U.S. Navy, an X-47B Unmanned Combat Air System (UCAS) demonstrator is towed into the hangar bay of the aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77) May 13, 2013 in the Atlantic Ocean. George H.W. Bush is scheduled to be the first aircraft carrier to catapult-launch an unmanned aircraft from its flight deck. The Navy plans to have unmanned aircraft on each of its carriers to be used for surveillance and be armed and used in combat roles. (Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Timothy Walter/U.S. Navy via Getty Images)
Navy Launches First Drone From Aircraft Carrier
ATLANTIC OCEAN - MAY 13: In this handout released by the U.S. Navy, an X-47B Unmanned Combat Air System (UCAS) demonstrator is towed into the hangar bay of the aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77) May 13, 2013 in the Atlantic Ocean. George H.W. Bush is scheduled to be the first aircraft carrier to catapult-launch an unmanned aircraft from its flight deck. The Navy plans to have unmanned aircraft on each of its carriers to be used for surveillance and be armed and used in combat roles. (Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Timothy Walter/U.S. Navy via Getty Images)

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