Boeing Phantom Works Provides Program Updates

 - July 6, 2012, 11:20 AM
The Phantom Eye will fly again, but not until the nose landing gear has been redesigned. (Photo: Boeing)

Executives from the Boeing Phantom Works described progress on various projects during a media tour at Edwards AFB recently. The unit does leading-edge research and development for the various Boeing divisions, including military aircraft.

The Phantom Eye high-altitude hydrogen-powered UAV will be grounded for some weeks following the landing accident on its first flight last month. Program manager Drew Mallow said that the nose gear will be redesigned after it collapsed. Until that event, everything had gone according to plan, he said. The next flight will also not exceed 10,000 feet, but will last longer. Subsequent flights will take the UAV to the desired 65,000 feet in 10,000-foot increments. The prototype can fly for up to four days with a 450-pound payload. Follow-on vehicles could remain aloft for 10 days with a 1,000-pound payload, although payload can be traded for endurance.

Jimmy Dodd, Phantom Works vice president, confirmed that the Phantom Ray UCAV demonstrator is in “hot storage” and has not flown since the two initial flights in the spring of last year. “We needed a paying customer, and some opportunities did not come to fruition due to budget cuts,” he explained. But the UCAV provided good data, especially on navigation and guidance, to support the company’s study work for the U.S. Navy’s unmanned carrier-launched airborne surveillance and strike (UClass) program. As for the same service’s FA-XX concept for a next-generation stealth fighter, Dodd described it as a “long-term pursuit of leaning-forward technology” that would take 10 years to mature. Boeing is studying concepts with “some customer money plus some of our own, but it’s not a big budget.”

Dodd told AIN that the counter-electronics, high-powered microwave advanced missile project (Champ) has not yet made a second flight, following the first test last year. This is a U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory program that explores airborne directed-energy attack. Dodd declined to identify the missile platform for the Champ project.

Like other U.S. aerospace majors, Boeing has received funding from the U.S. Air Force for the Next Generation Bomber program, also known as Long Range Strike (LRS). But the government has imposed a vow of silence on the contractors. All mention of the LRS has therefore been removed from unclassified presentations that summarize activities at the Phantom Works.