Media, Navy Wrongly Play up “Historic” X-47 Carrier Landing

Media organizations were aflutter yesterday because of the Navy’s unmanned demonstrator, the X-47B:

For the first time ever, a fighter jet-sized drone piloted entirely by computer landed on a modern aircraft carrier.


The X-47B drone made history Wednesday as the first robot to land itself on the moving flight deck of an aircraft carrier at sea…

Multiple sites dramatically reported on this “historic” event.  They were almost all wrong.  The X-47 landed on a carrier deck months ago.  To be fair, though, the US Navy’s own press release was wrong, calling it

the first time a tailless, unmanned autonomous aircraft landed on a modern aircraft carrier.

But in May, Navy Captain Brian E. Luther of the USS George H.W. Bush said of the X-47 landing then

“We are proud to be a part of another historic first for Naval Aviation. The landing was spot-on and it’s impressive to witness the evolution of the Carrier Air Wing.”

So the “historic first” event already happened.  The only thing the X-47 did differently in this instance was catch the cable and come to a stop, which is hardly

Landing on a ship that is constantly moving while navigating through turbulent air behind the aircraft carrier…

It’s understandable that people — and the US military — want to be recognized for accomplishments, and the feat itself is still impressive.  Factual accuracy goes a long way to creating credibility, though.