Boeing Phantom Ray UAV Makes First Flight

 - May 16, 2011, 6:36 AM
Boeing’s Phantom Ray stealthy and autonomous UAV made its first flight at the end of April. (Photo credit: Boeing)

The Boeing Phantom Ray stealthy and autonomous UAV demonstrator made its first flight at Edwards AFB on April 27, and flew again in early May. The flights followed high-speed taxi tests that validated ground guidance, navigation and control and verified mission planning, pilot interface and operational procedures. Boeing Phantom Works president Darryl Davis said that the Phantom Ray “would provide our customers with a test bed to develop future unmanned systems technology.”

Boeing self-funded the Phantom Ray after the Pentagon cancelled in early 2006 the almost identical X-45C flying wing that Boeing built during the J-UCAS program. The Northrop Grumman X-47B, in a similar class, survived the ending of J-UCAS and continued with funding from the U.S. Navy. It first flew last February.

Boeing said that potential missions for the Phantom Ray include intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance; suppression of enemy air defenses; electronic attack; strike; and autonomous air refueling. It is 36 feet long with a wingspan of 50 feet, and is powered by a single F404-GE-102D engine. It has a strike radius of 1,200 nm with a payload of 4,500 pounds, such as two internally carried JDAMs.

Meanwhile, another self-funded initiative from the Boeing Phantom Works is also now at Edwards. The Phantom Eye high-altitude long-endurance UAV that is fueled by liquid hydrogen is being prepared for its first flight, now scheduled for August.