Phantom flights

Boeing has announced plans to develop and demonstrate an unmanned flying test bed for advanced air system technologies.

The programme, known as Phantom Ray, will make use of a prototype vehicle that Boeing originally intended for the Joint-Unmanned Combat Air System (J-UCAS) programme.

The vehicle will conduct 10 flights over a period of around six months and is scheduled to make its first flight at the end of 2010. Potential supporting missions could include intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, electronic attack and autonomous aerial refuelling.

To meet its 2010 target, Boeing Phantom Works is using rapid-prototyping techniques. Dave Koopersmith, vice-president of Boeing Advanced Military Aircraft, explained: ‘What is particularly exciting about Phantom Ray is that we will incorporate the latest technologies into the superb X-45C airframe design. As we gradually expand the vehicle’s flight envelope, potential users will have access to a full range of unique capabilities that only this type of autonomous platform can provide.’

Darryl Davis, president of Phantom Works, said: ‘Boeing’s goals for the Phantom Ray programme clearly demonstrate our commitment to rapid prototyping and are an important part of the company’s efforts to be a leader in the unmanned aircraft business. We have mobilised our assets to continue the tremendous potential we developed under J-UCAS and now will fully demonstrate that capability.’

Laboratory testing for the Phantom Ray air vehicle is scheduled for late 2009, followed by ground testing and the first flight in 2010.