Phantom Ray Prepares for Stealth Debut

Contributor:  Richard de Silva
Posted:  06/15/2010  12:00:00 AM EDT
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The first unmanned aerial system to not require a remote pilot on the ground to guide it, is heading for take off by December of this year.

Unveiled earlier this month in St. Louis, Missouri, Boeing’s Phantom Ray is a sleek, white bodied craft designed for various uses, including reconnaissance, surveillance, refuelling other aircraft, electronic attacks and smart airstrikes. It is expected to provide the litmus for future technologies in the field.

The craft will operate at a level as close to autonomous as the military is willing to reach at this stage. Operators program the exact specifications for the jet’s mission before take off and then allow the craft to execute the instructions “by-the-numbers.” Should the mission need to be aborted or changed at any point, operators can retake direct control of the craft. Meanwhile, its engine lies deep within its body to reduce its infra-red signature, evading the scent of seeking missiles.

With an operating altitude of 40,000 feet and a payload capacity of 4,500 pounds, including the concealment of either two large Joint Direct Attach Munitions or eight Small Diameter Bombs, the Phantom Ray is currently at “80 percent” completion, according to officers at Phantom Works, but is projected to be fast-tracked into operation with approximately nine test flights within the new year.

The project, coined by Boeing as “Project Reblue,” was seeded in 2007 from the company’s X-45C demonstrator, but remained classified to anyone other than a few key engineers and executives until mid-last year.

Richard de Silva Contributor:   Richard de Silva

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