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Boeing Phantom Ray  (Source: Boeing)

  (Source: Boeing)
Additional test flights to take place of the next few weeks

Boeing first unveiled a near-complete version of its Phantom Ray unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) nearly a year ago. This week, the company announced that its Phantom Ray has completed its first flight.  

The first flight lasted for 17 minutes during which the Phantom Ray reached a maximum altitude of 7,500 feet and a top speed of 178 knots. 

The program is being completely funded by Boeing, and the first test flight's primary goals were to test fight characteristics of the aircraft. The company also notes that future mission parameters for the aircraft could include strike operations and autonomous in-air refueling. 

The Boeing Phantom Ray is 36 feet long and has a wingspan of 50 feet. The maximum takeoff weight for the aircraft is 36,500 pounds and is powered by a single GE F404-GE-102D engine.

"Autonomous, fighter-sized unmanned aircraft are real," said Phantom Ray program manager Craig Brown. "The UAS bar has been raised. Now I’m eager to see how high that bar will go."



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RE: Stealth?
By corduroygt on 5/5/2011 11:04:51 AM , Rating: 1
This aircraft looks like it's going to make our 21 multibillion dollar B-2's obsolete, since you can make a lot of them cheaply and replace any losses much easier.


RE: Stealth?
By 91TTZ on 5/5/2011 11:38:37 AM , Rating: 1
quote:
This aircraft looks like it's going to make our 21 multibillion dollar B-2's obsolete, since you can make a lot of them cheaply and replace any losses much easier.


This thing is the size of a fighter, not a bomber. So it's not going to have the range or payload capacity to do the B-2's job.

Also, the B-2 is not a multibillion dollar aircraft. I know that number is thrown around a lot, but that is the amortized cost and not the cost of the aircraft. Imagine if you headed a program to design an inexpensive "world car" like the Ford Focus. If you spent $1 billion of the program and had the cost of the car down to $5,000 each, your amortized cost would depend on the number sold. If you only made 1,000 of them and the program was canceled your amortized cost would be $1,005,000 each. It doesn't mean that the car itself was expensive, it just means that the price wasn't spread out among many vehicles.

For the B-2 program, the program cost $44.75 billion and only 21 were eventually made. So that made the amortized cost of them over $2 billion, but really the aircraft only cost about $750 million to produce. To put this in comparison, a Boeing 777 costs about $200 million a piece.

This Phantom Ray aircraft is the only one flying in a program that most likely costs well over a billion dollars. So you could say that this is a multibillion dollar aircraft as well.


RE: Stealth?
By corduroygt on 5/5/2011 11:50:32 AM , Rating: 2
I know about program development costs and amortizing, you really didn't need to explain that, but thanks.

In the end, we the tax payers paid $44 billion and got only 21 aircraft (I think one crashed). $44B would have bought 44000 cruise missiles at $1M apiece, which is more destructive power than 21 B-2's would deliver in their lifetime before their airframes wore out or they were shot down.

The Phantom Ray is very unlikely to be cancelled after a short production run since everyone is in favor of UAV's, so it's going to be much much cheaper. It also won't have a flyaway cost of $750B and require its own climate controlled hangar and extensive maintenance like the B-2.

It's far cheaper to go with these UAV's and use cruise missiles for longer range rather than paying for the development of a new stealth bomber. The B-2 will never have a successor that's comparable in size and stealth.


RE: Stealth?
By ekv on 5/5/2011 2:00:08 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
before their airframes wore out or they were shot down.
Keep in mind the B-52 is still flying. [Introduced Feb. 1955, older than me, almost as old as you].
quote:
The B-2 will never have a successor that's comparable in size and stealth.
Which is why you have a B-2. It's the mission it fulfills. Whatever happens, communications breakdown, etc., you've got a guy in the cockpit ready, willing and able to make the decision. Expensive? yep.

A curious note, you've seen f-22 knock-offs from the Chinese and Russians. Have you seen any B-2 knock-offs?

Lastly, I would also argue that UCAV's (like the Phantom Ray) have a greater variety of missions they can fulfill than, say, a B-2. But does that mean they are always the right tool for the job?


RE: Stealth?
By 91TTZ on 5/5/2011 3:18:43 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
I know about program development costs and amortizing, you really didn't need to explain that, but thanks.


We're not the only ones reading this thread.

quote:
In the end, we the tax payers paid $44 billion and got only 21 aircraft (I think one crashed). $44B would have bought 44000 cruise missiles at $1M apiece, which is more destructive power than 21 B-2's would deliver in their lifetime before their airframes wore out or they were shot down.


What, the development and upkeep of the cruise missiles was free? Hell, if you're going to do that, then give me 40+ B-2's with that money.

quote:
which is more destructive power than 21 B-2's would deliver in their lifetime before their airframes wore out or they were shot down.


The B-2 is a long range stealth bomber meant for penetrating advanced air defenses. Cruise missiles are not intended for that role. Cruise missiles can only fly about 1,300 miles while the B-2's range is 6,000 miles. If your target is 5,000 miles away, you're going to find that you have a bunch of cruise missiles that can't reach the target.

These are different weapons meant for different missions. You use the right tool for the job. If you need a large hole dug, would it help you if I gave you 11 rakes for the price of 5 shovels?


RE: Stealth?
By erple2 on 5/5/2011 5:36:21 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
If your target is 5,000 miles away, you're going to find that you have a bunch of cruise missiles that can't reach the target.


I think you'll also find that no B-2 can do that, as no pilot would fly a round-trip mission 10,000 miles long when you can't refuel, given your plane can only go 6000 miles.

Unless the target is really only about 2500 miles away from the nearest "friendly" refueling capability. In which case, if the range of a cruise missile was about 2500 miles, you'd be golden, too.


RE: Stealth?
By chiadog on 5/5/2011 11:44:43 PM , Rating: 2
In air refuelling? Just top off the tanks few thousand miles out from the target, and the same on the way back. The range is limited by the endurance of the crew.


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