Unwrapping the Bird of Prey

Four days ago, Boeing took the wraps of the ‘Bird of Prey,’ an aircraft developed to demonstrate the feasibility of new stealth manufacturing and production technologies.

The once highly classified ‘Bird of Prey’ project ran from 1992 through 1999. It was only revealed to the general public because Boeing felt that the technologies used in the aircraft are now industry standards.

In addition to proving many new stealth concepts, the Bird of Prey program demonstrated innovative rapid prototyping techniques. Developed by the Boeing Phantom Works advanced research-and-development organisation, the Bird of Prey was among the first to use large, single-piece composite structures, low-cost, disposable tooling, 3D virtual reality design and assembly processes.

Fully funded by Boeing, the Bird of Prey project cost $67 million. A subsonic, single-seat technology demonstrator, the aircraft completed 38 test flights as part of its flight-demonstration program. Its first flight took place in 1996. The aircraft has a wingspan of approximately 23 feet and a length of 47 feet, and weighs nearly 7,400 pounds. Powered by a Pratt & Whitney JT15D-5C turbofan engine, it has an operational speed of 260 knots and a maximum operating altitude of 20,000 feet.

Boeing said that its current development of the X-45A Unmanned Combat Air Vehicle, or UCAV, technology demonstrator draws directly on its Bird of Prey experience. Some aspects of the UCAV’s innovative radar-evading design, such as its shape and inlet, were developed from the Bird of Prey project.

Together, Boeing Phantom Works and Boeing Integrated Defense Systems are developing the UCAV for the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA, and the US Air Force.

To view a Quicktime movie of the Bird of prey aircraft click <a href=’http://www.boeing.com/news/releases/2002/video/lb03235.mov’> Here </A>.

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