Boeing Phantom Ray Completes 1st Flight Reaching 7,500 Feet


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Boeing Phantom Ray Completes 1st Flight Reaching 7,500 Feet

By Jim Douglas
May 6, 2011 - This week Boeing reported that its Phantom Ray unmanned airborne system (UAS) successfully completed its first flight April 27 at NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif.

The 17-minute flight took place following a series of high-speed taxi tests in March that validated ground guidance, navigation and control and verified mission planning, pilot interface and operational procedures. Phantom Ray flew to 7,500 feet and reached a speed of 178 knots.

"This day has been two-and-a-half years in the making," said Darryl Davis, president, Boeing Phantom Works. "It's the beginning of providing our customers with a test bed to develop future unmanned systems technology, and a testament to the capabilities resident within Boeing.

"Just as follow-on tests will expand Phantom Ray's flight envelope, they also will help Boeing expand its presence in the unmanned systems market." The flight demonstrated Phantom Ray's basic airworthiness, setting the stage for additional flights in the next few weeks. These company-funded flights will prepare Phantom Ray to support potential missions that may include intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance; suppression of enemy air defenses; electronic attack; strike; and autonomous air refueling.

"The first flight moves us farther into the next phase of unmanned aircraft," said Craig Brown, Phantom Ray program manager for Boeing. "Autonomous, fighter-sized unmanned aircraft are real, and the UAS bar has been raised. Now I?m eager to see how high that bar will go."

The Boeing Phantom Ray is a stealthy unmanned combat air vehicle being developed by Boeing using company funds. The Phantom Ray is a demonstrator aircraft, about the size of a fighter that will conduct a program of test flights involving surveillance, ground attack and autonomous aerial refueling missions.

The Phantom Ray project, called "Project Reblue" internally at Boeing, was first conceptualized in mid-2007, and started in earnest in June 2008. The project was kept secret even within the company, except for a handful of executives and engineers, until May 2009.


Developed by the Boeing Phantom Works, the Phantom Ray is based on the X-45C prototype aircraft that Boeing originally developed for the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA)/U.S. Air Force/U.S. Navy Joint-Unmanned Combat Air System (J-UCAS) program. However, Phantom Ray is not aimed at any particular program or competition.

The Phantom Ray was unveiled on May 10, 2010 in St. Louis, Missouri. In late November 2010 low-speed taxi tests were carried out in St. Louis. The demonstrator aircraft is to perform 10 test flights over six months, supporting missions such as intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance; suppression of enemy air defenses; electronic attack; hunter/killer; and autonomous aerial refueling. Boeing anticipates that the Phantom Ray will be the first of a series of new prototype aircraft. 

The Phantom Ray was scheduled to make its first flight in December 2010 from NASA Dryden Flight Research Center, but this has been rescheduled to 2011. It was carried on a 747 Shuttle Carrier Aircraft from St. Louis on December 13, 2010 during a test flight. The 747 later carried the Phantom Ray to Edwards Air Force Base in preparation for its first flight. The UAV took its maiden flight on April 27, 2011 from Edwards AFB.

Phantom Ray is one of several programs in Phantom Works, including Phantom Eye, that is part of a rapid prototyping initiative to design, develop and build advanced aircraft and then demonstrate their capabilities. Boeing's portfolio of UAS solutions also includes the A160T Hummingbird, Integrator, ScanEagle and SolarEagle.

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