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By Amy Butler aviationweek.com

 

Boeing is embarking upon a new rapid prototyping initiative for its defense business beginning with flight trials of its Phantom Ray—a version of the defunct X-45 effort.

 

The company is using its own internal research and development funding for flight tests of the unmanned air system demonstrator, slated for late 2010 at White Sands Missile Range, N. M., says Darryl Davis, vice president of the company’s Phantom Works division.

 

“Boeing is in the unmanned combat air system business . . . and in a big way,” Davis says.

 

 

 

PhantomRayBOEING.jpg

 

Since losing the Joint Strike Fighter competition to Lockheed Martin in 2001 and the Navy-led Unmanned Combat Air System (UCAS) program to Northrop Grumman’s X-47 in 2007, the company has struggled to craft a strategic path forward for its tactical aircraft business. St. Louis is the hub of its fighter work, with the production line manufacturing F-15E variants for South Korea, Saudi Arabia and Singapore as well as F/A-18E/F Super Hornets and E/A-18 Growlers for the U.S. Navy here. Beyond these, however, the future is murky.

 

The Phantom Ray project—dubbed “Project Reblue” internally at Boeing—was conceptualized in mid-2007, and started in earnest in June 2008, Davis says. It was kept secret even within the company except for a handful of executives and engineers until this month.

 

The concept behind Phantom Ray is to internally fund flight demonstrations of the air vehicle, giving the company hands-on experience with work on the potentially lucrative combat drone market while also wringing out some technologies that could be applied to future bids for Pentagon work. The key to the flight-test plan is to be able to “demonstrate technology readiness” for the Pentagon when it articulates its needs.

 

This type of company-funded research is likely to become more critical to the survival of Boeing and its rivals in light of the expected leveling-off in U.S. defense spending. Defense Secretary Robert Gates proposed tabling a next-generation bomber—the biggest Air Force-led tactical aircraft program foreseen in the near future—among other major shifts in defense allocations.

 

For Boeing, Phantom Ray and other prototyping projects are keeping a small cadre of engineers focused on designing next-generation concepts and engaged in flight-test efforts. They are also forcing the design team to be as lean as possible because of limited funding, and allowing the company to experiment with operational use of an aircraft built using some unconventional manufacturing processes, Davis adds.

 

The Phantom Works name was only reestablished in February; previously the company referred to the division as Advanced Systems. With reinstatement of the older name, Davis says the company is returning to a tradition of prototyping. Advanced Systems had been mainly focused on capturing new programs, detracting from work on future technologies.

 

The Pentagon has fewer programs today than in previous decades. And, after industry consolidation in the 1990s there are fewer companies in the market. Against this backdrop Davis says he is trying to select prototyping programs that mature technologies the Pentagon is likely to need before it lays out its requirements in forthcoming programs.

 

“When you do things like this, you do gamble,” Davis says. “And, this is about taking risks and knowing how to manage them.” With many analysts suggesting that the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter could be the last manned fighter, it is clear that future players in aerospace must tackle the challenges of developing and operating unmanned systems, including vehicle design, command and control technologies, and data transfer and exploitation. “If we didn’t start to move faster, we might be left behind,” he said.

 

The Phantom Ray is not unlike Lockheed Martin’s 2007 unveiling of the Polecat UAS, a flying demonstrator with a stealthy, delta-wing shape spearheaded by that company’s advanced arm, the Skunk Works. Unfortunately, the Polecat crashed after its third flight test. Both companies are clearly struggling to prove they are relevant in the large UAS market space, dominated by Northrop Grumman and General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, developer of the Predator and Reaper product lines.

 

Davis intends to begin Phantom Ray taxi tests with the demonstrator in spring 2010. The Phantom Ray is a renamed X-45C, three of which were ordered to demonstrate land-based UCAS requirements for the U.S. Air Force. One full-up aircraft still stands, the Phantom Ray, and Boeing still has the structure for what would have been the second X-45C. The engines from the X-45 program were sold after its collapse, and the aircraft is now sitting in a shop here without a powerplant. It is slated to receive its General Electric F404-GE-102D engine in time to start engine runs early next year.

 

Some of the outer skins of the aircraft have been removed to allow engineers to verify that onboard wiring remains functional; the air vehicle was in storage following the X-45’s demise. Inherently stealthy design features, including the serpentine intake, onboard materials and flying-wing design, remain, though demonstrating survivability isn’t one of the key goals of the flight-test program, Davis says.

 

The X-45’s roots give Phantom Ray a complex history. The Air Force-led X-45 effort was merged with a U.S. Navy program under the Joint UCAS (J-UCAS) moniker, but the marriage was short-lived. The Air Force’s requirements, originally geared to the suppression-of-enemy-air-defense mission were aligned with the Boeing aircraft, while the Navy’s needs for long-range intelligence collection from aircraft carriers were more in line with Northrop’s X-47.

 

Though both services have struggled with the cultural shift required to support an unmanned combat drone fleet, the Air Force announced in 2006 it was abandoning funding for the project, and the joint effort collapsed. Shortly thereafter in 2007, Northrop won the Navy demonstration program. Despite waffling support from the Air Force, Pentagon leadership continued to encourage Boeing’s development work. “The Boeing activity and general body of work in unmanned combat aircraft is not going to go to waste. It’s being applied in a number of different areas,” said Dyke Weatherington, acting director of air warfare in the Pentagon’s acquisition office in August 2007.

 

Davis insists Phantom Ray is not simply a revival of the X-45. Though the demonstrator vehicle will be the lynchpin of the flight-test program, he underscores that the program is not designed to fit a particular government specification or to be an entrant in a competition. Nor is it constrained by the management and oversight of a government effort. It will be, he says, a “lean” operation.

 

First, the company will prove airworthiness of the aircraft and then expand the flight envelope. Finally, Boeing will try to demonstrate possible applications of the aircraft, including weapons carriage and employment; electronic attack; intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance; signals intelligence, and directed energy payloads.

 

Davis says exploring autonomous aerial refueling is “very important.” Navy officials added this requirement to Northrop’s UCAS Demonstrator program late last year.

 

The legacy X-45 vehicle already provided space for a refueling receptacle on its left side aft section, where the wing joins the fuselage, and Boeing had already formed plans to install it in the earlier Air Force-led program.

 

Though Northrop Grumman won the UCAS demonstrator competition, Navy officials plan to conduct another competition—likely after 2013 when Northrop’s X-47 demonstrator flight tests conclude—for the development of a future unmanned, stealthy aircraft that will operate from aircraft carriers. Boeing’s work in the Phantom Ray flight trials will likely weigh heavily in a forthcoming design for that competition.

 

 

 

 

Questo è un sunto del medesimo articolo da avionews.it:

 

St. Louis, Stati Uniti - Primo volo previsto per dicembre 2010

(WAPA) - La Boeing ha annunciato oggi l'intenzione di produrre e testare un dimostratore pilotato a distanza come banco di prova per tecnologie per i sistemi di volo avanzati. Il programma interno, denominato "Phantom Ray", userà il prototipo originariamente prodotto per il programma congiunto della Darpa (Agenzia della difesa per i progetti di ricerca avanzata), delle forze aeree e della marina per il J-Ucas (Joint-Unmanned combat air system).

 

Il dimostratore del "Phantom Ray" dovrebbe effettuare il suo primo volo nel dicembre del 2010. Il velivolo eseguirà 10 voli in un periodo di sei mesi, portando a termine missioni di intelligence, sorveglianza e riconoscimento (Isr), soppressione di difese aeree nemiche, attacco elettronico, hunter/killer e rifornimento aereo autonomo. L'organizzazione Boeing Phantom Works sta impiegando tecnici in grado di realizzare velocemente un prototipo per accelerare i tempi verso la scadenza del 2010.

 

Il "Phantom Ray" riprenderà da dove aveva lasciato il programma Ucas nel 2006, dimostrando ulteriormente la capacità di Boeing nello sviluppo di sistemi pilotati a distanza (Uas) di grandi dimensioni con tecnologia aerospaziale all'avanguardia. I test di laboratorio per il "Phantom Ray" avranno luogo a fine 2009, seguiti dai test a terra per arrivare al primo volo nel dicembre del 2010. (Avionews)

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Inizia la costruzione del Phantom Eye

 

x-45c1.jpg

 

Boeing ha iniziato la costruzione del Phantom Eye, il suo primo UAV di tipo HALE (High Altitude Long Endurance) propulso da un motore a idrogeno liquido, evoluzione separata dell’ X-45C che dovrebbe compiere il suo primo volo a dicembre. “Il cuore del sistema è il sistema di propulsione”, ha detto Darryl Davis, Presidente della divisione Boeing Phantom Works. “Dopo cinque anni di sviluppo stiamo procedendo rapidamente all’assemblaggio di un UAV con motore a idrogeno pronto per volare all’inizio del prossimo anno” Il bimotore Phantom Eye avrà un’apertura alare di 45 metri e avrà la capacità di permanere in volo per quattro giorni consecutivi a 65.000 piedi con un carico pagante di 200 kg, in modo da garantire una presenza prolungata nella stratosfera sopra un’area specifica per missioni di ricognizione, intelligence, sorveglianza e comunicazioni. Boeing sta anche sviluppando un UAV HALE più grande capace di rimanere in volo per 10 giorni consecutivi trasportando un carico pagante di 900 kg, e un altro UAV della dimensione di un caccia, il Phantom Ray, che fungerà da piattaforma tecnologica. “Crediamo che il Phantom Eye e il Phantom Ray rappresentino due aree verso cui si sta muovendo il mercato, e sviluppare rapidamente dei prototipi è la via più veloce per arrivarci”, ha detto Dave Koopersmith, Vice Presidente di Advanced Boeing Military Aircraft. “Questi dimostratori riducono il rischio tecnologico e rappresentano la base per incontrare le esigenze dei clienti sia militari che commerciali”. Questo prototipo segue la scia del primo velivolo del genere sviluppato da Boeing, il Condor, che ha stabilito diversi record di altitudine e autonomia verso la fine degli anni ’80. Boeing per questo programma sta lavorando con i partner Ball Aerospace, Aurora Flight Sciences, Ford Motor Co. e MAHLE Powertrain.

 

www.difesanews.it 9 mar, 2010

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il motore è a reazione o ad elica? l'aereo sembra essere molto grande e inoltre il dubbio mi sorge perché c'è scritto:"propulso da un motore a idrogeno liquido, evoluzione separata dell’ X-45C che dovrebbe compiere il suo primo volo a dicembre." inoltre è l'x45c a dover compiere il suo primo volo o il phantom eye?

la ford che ruolo ha nel progetto?

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dalla presentazione, anche se in inglese, si capisce che è un velivolo ISR, ma anche d'attacco, studiato per la guerra di oggi. mi chiedo che armi possa portare e quali siano le sue prestazioni anche se credo che trasporti un paio di JDAM e delle SDB mentre per prestazioni suppongo su mach 1,5.

Edited by meason

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mi chiedo che armi possa portare e quali siano le sue prestazioni anche se credo che trasporti un paio di JDAM e delle SDB mentre per prestazioni suppongo su mach 1,5.

E' un velivolo subsonico...

 

Con un’apertura alare di 15 metri ed una lunghezza di 11 metri, baia interna per il trasporto d’armi, e possibilità di ospitare 4.500 lb di carico pagante, volare a 40.000 piedi a Mach 0.85, e con un raggio di missione di 2.407 km, il Phantom Ray è un’evoluzione dell’X-45C, risultato finale del programma di ricerca congiunto Joint-Unmanned Combat Air System (J-UCAS) di Darpa, US Air Force e US Navy, iniziato circa 10 anni fa.

 

http://www.difesanews.it/archives/boeing-svela-il-dimostratore-phantom-ray

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Primo volo per il Phantom Ray

 

The Phantom Ray unmanned airborne system (UAS) took off from NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center at Edwards Air Force Base, California on April 27, according to Boeing, and flew for 17 minutes reaching a height of 7,500 feet (2286 meters) while traveling at speeds of over 322 kph (200 mph).

 

http://edition.cnn.com/2011/TECH/innovation/05/04/boeing.phantomray.unmanned.stealth/index.html?iref=allsearch

 

Nel link anche alcune foto interessanti...

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Phantom Eye High-Altitude Long-Endurance surveillance drone completes first flight. With minor injuries.

 

On Jun. 1, Phantom Eye unmanned airborne system (UAS) completed its first autonomous flight June 1 at NASA’s Dryden Flight Research Center at Edwards Air Force Base, California.

As the image below shows, the drone took off using a launch cart system similar to the one of the WWII Messerschmitt Me163 Komet rocket powered fighter.

The short 28-minute flight brought the revolutionary drone, powered by two liquid-hydrogen engines to an altitude of 4,080 feet and a cruising speed of 62 knots.

...

Unfortunately, after touching down, the vehicle sustained some damage when the landing gear dug into the lakebed and broke.

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