The Navy plans to perform an arresting gear landing of the X-47B unmanned aerial vehicle on an aircraft carrier Wednesday, and if successful it would mark the first accomplishment of the feat as the service continues to pursue aviation history at sea.

The attempt is the next phase in the development of the X-47B demonstrator following the first catapult launch of the aircraft on May 14 aboard the USS George H.W. Bush (CVN-77). The arresting gear landing attempt will also take place aboard the Bush off the coast of Virginia.

An X-47B flies over the USS George H.W. Bush in May. Photo by U.S. Navy

“We are on the precipice of executing the first ever naval aviation historic event of an arrested landing of an unmanned vehicle aboard an aircraft carrier,” Rear Adm. Mat Winter, the program executive officer for unmanned aviation and strike weapons at Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR), told reporters on Tuesday. “Your grandchildren and great grandchildren and mine will be reading about this historic event in their history books.”

“This is not trivial nor is it something that came lightly,” he added. “The efforts and dollars spent by Northrop Grumman and the Navy technical team now come to fruition.”

Northrop Grumman [NOC] is the prime contractor for the X-47B under the Unmanned Combat Air System (UCAS) demonstration program. UCAS is a precursor to the aircraft the Navy plans to develop and operationally field at the beginning of the next decade in a separate program called Unmanned Carrier Launched Surveillance and Strike (UCLASS).

Leading up to the aircraft carrier testing, the Navy has been carrying out shore-based tests of the two X-47Bs at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Md. The Navy last year for the first time loaded an X-47B on a carrier to evaluate its maneuverability and integration into flight deck operations.

The X-47B for Wednesday’s test will depart from the air station and head to the carrier. Once in the vicinity of the ship, it will receive approach and land commands and is to carry both out autonomously, a program official said.

As the X-47B’s development proceeds, the Navy is moving forward with the UCLASS program. Winter said NAVAIR plans to release a draft request for proposals (RFP) in August and a final RFP early next year.

Northrop Grumman, Lockheed Martin [LMT], Boeing [BA] and General Atomics are currently under contract for preliminary design for UCLASS, and all four firms are likely to submit proposals in the competition. Winter said the Navy expects to select the winner by the end of September 2014.