Boeing said the U.S. Missile Defense Agency (MDA) is the first payload customer for its Phantom Eye high-altitude, long-endurance unmanned aircraft system. On June 5, the Department of Defense (DOD) agency announced a $6.8 million contract modification with Boeing to incorporate an unspecified payload aboard future test flights of the aircraft.
The MDA-contracted payload test flights will begin with the fifth Phantom Eye test flight, scheduled for late this year, Boeing said.
The Phantom Eye is a liquid hydrogen-powered, propeller-driven UAS designed for persistent intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance and communications. The propulsion system is capable of maintaining the aircraft’s altitude for up to four days while carrying a 450-pound payload, Boeing states. The aircraft completed its first flight at the NASA Dryden Flight Research Center at Edwards Air Force Base, California, on June 1, 2012. It climbed to 4,080 feet and reached a cruising speed of 62 knots.
The MDA contract modification increased Boeing’s cost-plus-fixed-fee contract with the agency from $2.2 million to $9 million. According to the MDA announcement, “the contractor will make aircraft modifications to accommodate instruments and payloads on Boeing’s existing experimental prototype aircraft and gather, analyze and report flight test data to characterize potential payload environments.” The work will be performed at Huntsville, Ala.; St. Louis; Edwards AFB; and Albuquerque, N.M.
In addition to the DOD, Boeing lists the Department of Homeland Security and "various telecommunications operations" as potential Phantom Eye customers.