It may look like a futuristic starfighter, but this sleek gun-metal craft is Boeing’s latest unmanned spy plane.
Called the Phantom Ray, the cutting-edge unmanned airborne system (UAS) was unveiled at a ceremony in St Louis yesterday.
The sleek craft has a 50ft wingspan, measures 36ft long and has a gross weight of 36,500lbs. It operates at an altitude of 40,000ft, which is 10,000ft higher than the average long-haul commercial airliner. It will cruise comfortably at a speed of 614mph, or 0.8mach, just shy of the speed of sound.
The Phantom Ray is a ‘one off’ demonstration vehicle intended to be a flying test bed for future technology development opportunities.
It was developed by Boeing Phantom Works based on a prototype that the company had originally created for the U.S military.
Designed in a way to create a very low radar cross-section, the craft doesn’t betray its presence over enemy territories. The engine is buried within the body to reduce the infra-red signature, thus throwing missiles off its course. It is likely any weaponry on board would ‘pop out’ only when needed.
CEO of Boeing Defense, Space and Security, Dennis Muilenburg, said: ‘Phantom Ray offers a host of options for our customers as a test bed for advanced technologies, including intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance; suppression of enemy air defenses; electronic attack and autonomous aerial refueling – the possibilities are nearly endless.’
The Ray has been developed in just two years through a process called rapid prototyping and manufacturing. It is scheduled for testing this summer and is due to launch in December, with 10 flights planned over six months.
‘We are on a fast track, and first flight is in sight,’ Darryl Davis, president of Boeing Phantom Works, said.
Phantom Ray is designed to be a test bed for advanced technologies and support such missions as intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, suppression of enemy air defences, electronic attack, strike and autonomous aerial refueling.