Phantom Ray Rollout, May 10, 2011 (Boeing Photo)
Phantom Ray Program Manager Craig Brown spoke at the St. Louis AIAA Chapter Meeting at Boeing IDS Headquarters Dec. 16. The talk was especially timely in light of this week's ferry flight of the Phantom Ray atop the NASA 747 SCA and last month's successful low-speed taxi test at Lambert Airport. Brown, a 1989 graduate of the U.S. Air Force Academy and AF Reserve F-16 pilot, served as X-45 software team lead prior to becoming Phantom Ray Program Manager. His presentation traced the development of both vehicles and offered insights on the flight test program scheduled for 2011.
Mr. Brown described the development of the X-45A as a DARPA/Air Force project that completed 64 flights demonstrating multiple-vehicle autonomous missions. The short-lived X-45B joint Air Force and Navy project was quickly superseded by the X-45C. The X-45C was 90% complete when the Northrop-Grumman X-47 was selected for further development. That X-45C was completed as the Phantom Ray project, due for its first flight in March of 2011.
The dimensions and capabilities of the Phantom Ray are impressive. The vehicle has a 50' wingspan and grosses at 36,500 lbs. It is powered by a General Electric GE-404-102D (D for Dry-no afterburner) engine and can carry a variety of JDAM weapons. It is designed to fly at 40,000 feet, with a combat radius of 1100 miles with auxiliary internal fuel. It has an aluminum/composite skin construction, and contains all-electric flight controls. Advanced construction methods preclude easy disassembly, thus the need for the NASA 747 SCA for transport to Edwards AFB earlier this week.
The Phantom Ray is the result of new management practices in advanced vehicle engineering. The Phantom Works division at Boeing employs rapid prototyping, which will continually produce prototypes within 24-30 month cycles using product teams with close relationships between engineering and production workers. The Phantom Ray is a product of these management practices, going from X-45C to Phantom Ray, a new vehicle internally, between 2009 and first flight in 2011.
Progress on the Phantom Ray project has accelerated. Rollout of the vehicle occurred on May 10, 2010, and taxi tests were conducted on November 18. The ferry flight to Edwards AFB was on December 14, and first flight is scheduled for early March 2011.