Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Boeing's Phantom Ray to fly in December

Boeing’s sleek fighter-size Phantom Ray stealth jet will make its first flight by year’s end. This unmanned airborne system is designed for a variety of war fighter roles ranging from reconnaissance and surveillance to aerial refueling, electronic attack and hunter/killer missions.

The 36-foot-long aircraft, which will serve as a test bed for advanced technologies, was rolled out May 10 at the Boeing Defense, Space & Security plant in St. Louis, Mo. With its 614-mph (0.8 Mach) cruising speed, operating altitude of 40,000 feet and 50-foot wingspan, the 36,5000-pound Phantom Ray advances the state of the art for unmanned aircraft. The bat-shaped flying wing has a combat radius of 1,200 nautical miles. Power comes from a General Electric F404-102D engine.

Unlike earlier generation drones serving with the military in hot spots such as Afghanistan, where the aircraft is remotely controlled from the ground by a pilot using a joy stick, the Phantom Ray is capable of completely autonomous operation without the need for anyone to be at the controls, according to Boeing.

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