The big new trend among wargadget makers seems to be the elimination of the fleshy operator, and we're seeing it happening with helicopters, boats, and even space shuttles. The Phantom Ray is Boeing's take on how we can do the same to jet fighters, and it's had its official unveiling in St. Louis this week. Primarily intended to serve as a reconnaissance and intelligence drone, this 36 foot-long airborne robot will be able to cruise at speeds of up to 614mph, and will even do a bit of suppression fire when you need it to. It's designed to be undetectable by radar and offers a minimal heat signature for missiles to lock on to, as its engine is buried deep within the body. Sounds ominous indeed, but the Phantom Ray will serve as the testbed for even more advanced technologies and will take its first flight in December of this year. See its grand debut on video after the break.
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Boeing Unveils Unmanned Phantom Ray Demonstrator

ST. LOUIS, May 10, 2010 -- The Boeing Company [NYSE: BA] today unveiled the fighter-sized Phantom Ray unmanned airborne system, a test bed for advanced technologies.


"We are on a fast track, and first flight is in sight," said Darryl Davis, president of Boeing Phantom Works. "Phantom Ray is on schedule to fly in December, about two years after this project began. This is a tremendous accomplishment for Boeing and the Phantom Ray team."

Phantom Ray is scheduled to begin taxi tests this summer. The first flight in December will be followed by up to nine additional flights over approximately six months. Phantom Ray is designed to support potential missions that may include intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance; suppression of enemy air defenses; electronic attack; strike; and autonomous aerial refueling.

"The initial flights will take Phantom Ray through its paces for the flight test profile. Beyond that, the missions and systems tested will be determined by future warfighter needs," said Craig Brown, Phantom Ray program manager for Boeing.

Phantom Ray, which evolved from the X-45C program, is one of several programs in the Phantom Works division of Boeing Defense, Space & Security. Phantom Works uses rapid prototyping initiatives to design, develop and build advanced aircraft and then demonstrate their capabilities.

Key Phantom Ray suppliers include General Electric-Aviation (propulsion and power distribution), Honeywell (brake system), Woodward-HRT (flight control actuation system), Crane Hydro-Aire (brake controls) and Heroux-Devtek (landing gear).

For a feature story on today's Phantom Ray ceremony in St. Louis, visit http://bit.ly/99AvLS.

A unit of The Boeing Company, Boeing Defense, Space & Security is one of the world's largest defense, space and security businesses specializing in innovative and capabilities-driven customer solutions, and the world's largest and most versatile manufacturer of military aircraft. Headquartered in St. Louis, Boeing Defense, Space & Security is a $34 billion business with 68,000 employees worldwide.

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Boeing's unmanned Phantom Ray makes dramatic video debut, set to take off this December