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The Phantom Ray is a fighter-sized semi-autonomous stealth UAV from Boeing, shown here in a concept rendering.  (Source: Boeing)

The near-complete Phantom Ray was unveiled this week and will begin test flights in December.  (Source: Boeing photo)
First flight will be conducted in December

Last year, Boeing discussed the future of the "Phantom Ray", a stealthy, unmanned aerial vehicle.  The Phantom Ray was based on the X-45C design which Boeing produced for the DARPA Joint-Unmanned Combat Air System (J-UCAS) program.

On Monday, Boeing unveiled the near complete fighter-sized automated craft and announced that plans to conduct a December test flight and nine more test flights in the following six months were proceeding quite nicely.

Darryl Davis, president of Boeing Phantom Works cheered, "We are on a fast track, and first flight is in sight.  Phantom Ray is on schedule to fly in December, about two years after this project began. This is a tremendous accomplishment for Boeing and the Phantom Ray team."

The Phantom Ray is designed to fulfill a variety of roles including intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance; suppression of enemy air defenses; electronic attack; strike; and autonomous aerial refueling. 

Today, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) are fast becoming a mainstay of the U.S. Armed Forces in the global arena, but most UAVs currently in action require extensive piloting.  The Phantom Ray, by contrast, would be mostly autonomous, making its own way to designated targets and only requiring a human operator to pull the trigger.  The Phantom Ray is also larger than most UAVs currently in action, and thus should be able to support more diverse roles or provide more destructive power.

Test taxis will take place this summer.  Craig Brown, Phantom Ray program manager for Boeing, describes the flights that will follow, stating, "The initial flights will take Phantom Ray through its paces for the flight test profile. Beyond that, the missions and systems tested will be determined by future warfighter needs."

Boeing describes its secretive Phantom Works division writing:

Phantom Works uses rapid prototyping initiatives to design, develop and build advanced aircraft and then demonstrate their capabilities.

A number of military suppliers were involved with the Phantom Ray.  Among those announced by Boeing include General Electric-Aviation (propulsion and power distribution), Honeywell (brake system), Woodward-HRT (flight control actuation system), Crane Hydro-Aire (brake controls) and Heroux-Devtek (landing gear). 

The U.S. Air Force last year gained their first jet-powered UAV.  If the tests of the Phantom Ray go smoothly, it may decide to soon add its first semi-autonomous stealth UAV to its stable.



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Bigger is not better.
By JonnyDough on 5/16/2010 1:06:43 AM , Rating: 1
I'm not sure that being a larger plane makes the Phantom Ray better than conventional UAVs. Sure it can carry a larger payload, but I think a group of smaller craft dropping several bombs would not only be more efficient because you could choose to use any number of UAVs for any job, but it would also be more stealthy. Smaller signatures would look more like a flock of birds, and less like an aircraft to radar, plus as an example - 5 bombs dropped on a target would not only equal the same amount of firepower as one large bomb. Smaller aircraft are harder to shoot out of the sky, same with any of their bombs or missiles fired. Even if you were able to shoot down one aircraft or missile from a group of small attack planes, four would still reach the destination. Don't put all your eggs in one basket...don't put all your birds and bombs in one either.




RE: Bigger is not better.
By DominionSeraph on 5/16/2010 3:01:42 PM , Rating: 2
Yes, why don't you throw firecrackers at a tank one after another and compare to a HEAT round. Or shoot arrows at an APC and compare 30mm depleted uranium. Because, sure, many small = 1 large. :rolleyes:

quote:
I think

...poorly.


RE: Bigger is not better.
By JonnyDough on 5/18/2010 2:19:35 AM , Rating: 2
There's really no need to be a prick. Really.

It is possible for five projectiles hitting the same exact spot at the same time to be the equivalent of one larger projectile. It would hit with the same amount of force, as it is the same amount of weight. Perhaps it's you who does not have the capacity to think outside the box, or to be civil. If I was a moderator here I would probably warn you to get yourself in check. There's no need for childish outbursts like that in a simple discussion.


RE: Bigger is not better.
By ayat101 on 5/20/2010 10:29:58 AM , Rating: 2
You do not know what you are talking about.

For many small projectiles to have the same effect as one large one, the following would have to be true:

- they have to hit exactly the same spot, practically impossible.

- they would have to hit at exactly the same time, totally impossible as that would require them to occupy the same space... and I'm sure you agree you can not have two things in the same space.

- all the smaller projectiles would have to have the physical characteristics of the larger one, as a harder or denser metal will have different effects to a softer metal... this may be possible to arrange but it ads even more comlpexity.

- structures often have a kind of breaking potential, hit it below that potential, even many times, and it will not break... but hit it above that potential and you wreck it. Kind of like jumping up and down many times will not launch you into orbit because each time is below the escape velocity :)

So the sad truth is you simply got it totally wrong because your idea is outright impossible for more than one reason and highly impractical for even more.


RE: Bigger is not better.
By JonnyDough on 5/18/2010 2:24:43 AM , Rating: 2
There's really no need to be a prick. Really.

It is possible for five projectiles hitting the same exact spot at the same time to be the equivalent of one larger projectile. It would hit with the same amount of force, as it is the same amount of weight. Perhaps it's you who does not have the capacity to think outside the box, or to be civil. If I was a moderator here I would probably warn you to get yourself in check. There's no need for childish outbursts like that in a simple discussion.


RE: Bigger is not better.
By ColomialBoy on 5/18/2010 1:55:48 AM , Rating: 2
There is something else that I find it difficult to believe that no one has brought up - How much good does it do if you get the radar cross-section of the aircraft down to that of a bird? How many birds have you ever heard of that can maintain a speed exceeding several hundreds of MPH in level flight?

Birds and planes can both hover (hummingbirds and Harrier jets come to mind), but the fastest bird around (the Peregrine Falcon) has a top speed of 124mph (which is probably near the stalling speed of most modern jet aircraft).


RE: Bigger is not better.
By DougF on 5/19/2010 10:36:46 AM , Rating: 2
Most radar signal processors are programmed to ignore targets below certain thresholds, such as birds. Otherwise, the operators would see a huge number of false positives. Discriminating for speed might help, but with the stealth design you might only get one reflection and probably no way to get doppler shift from it, either. So, you're left with one small blip appearing, then disappearing, looking exactly like a bird might.


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