Ride on the Ray: Boeing’s X-45 UCAVs

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X-45C, F/A18F, F-15E(click to view full) In 1998, Boeing began a revolutionary development program: create an unmanned aircraft that was about the size of the USAF’s F-117 stealth fighter, with similar performance, better stealth, and better range. DARPA’s J-UCAS program launched Boeing’s X-45A and Northrop Grumman’s X-47B Unmanned Combat Air Vehicles (UCAVs), which went on to perform tests that included multiple UCAV flights, bomb drops, and other aviation firsts. J-UCAS was effectively killed in 2006, though it went on to spawn the Navy’s UCAS-D competition. NGC’s X-47B Pegasus won, but the Pentagon’s back-and-forth over the USAF’s Next-Generation Bomber program gave Boeing an incentive to remain active. The bomber program will either create a big opening for UCAVs, or allow Boeing to lever any new advances in stealthy UCAV design for its bomber bid. Not so coincidentally, Boeing is using company funds to put its X-45C back on track, as the “Phantom Ray”. Boeing’s X-45s X-45A’s 1st flight(click to view full) UCAVs currently have no real situational awareness of the airspace around them, which makes them sitting ducks for any attack that doesn’t use radar guidance, and isn’t picked up by their radar warning receivers. Even an alerted UCAV currently has […]

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