Battleland was at a party this weekend where someone got the X-37B confused with the X-47B. You’d think the Air Force and the Navy would have a Joint Operating Coordination Committee on Aircraft Designation and Nomenclature to avoid fielding two new aircraft with such similar designations (but you’d be wrong: back in the early 1980s the services gave headline and caption writers, and not a few reporters and lawmakers, fits as they launched their F-16 and F-18 airplanes at the same time, pitting one against the other in arms-sales competitions around the globe).
Anyway, as a public service:
— The Air Force’s X-37B is an unmanned, reusable space plane. One of them just returned to Earth at California’s Edwards Air Force Base after 469 days in orbit on a secret mission. Air Force sources deny it was spying on…
— The Navy’s X-47B is an armed, unmanned drone now in development for potential deployment on aircraft carriers. It just completed basic airworthiness testing at Edwards and is slated to begin carrier sea trials next year.
Memory tip: the lower number – 37-vice-47 – belongs to the Air Force craft, just like the F-16/F-18 pairing.