Military


X-45 UCAV

The UCAV System Demonstration Program has at its core the successful completion of over 200 demonstration events, the first half of which will be conducted exclusively with the X-45A demonstrator system during demonstration Blocks 1 through 3. These events include analysis, component developments, simulations, ground tests and flight tests. The demonstrator tool set that is being developed to support these demonstrations consists of four principle elements: a sophisticated system simulation; a set of representative air vehicles; a suite of mission control items, and key supportability related components.

On 24 March 1999, DARPA and the Air Force selected Boeing to continue the $131 million Phase II of the UCAV program. This advanced technology demonstration is jointly funded by the Air Force, DARPA, and Boeing. Boeing Phantom Works will design, fabricate and flight test their UCAV demonstrator system in a 42-month, $131 million cost-shared effort. Boeing's Seattle location will be responsible for the mission control system and overall program management, whereas the St. Louis location will have the lead for the air vehicle segment.

During Phase II, Boeing will complete the UCAV demonstration system, which will involve fabrication of two vehicles and a reconfigurable mission control station. In addition, Boeing will develop and integrate critical technologies being matured by AFRL researchers; continue risk-reduction activities; and conduct flight tests. There is a priced option, currently unfunded, to continue the program into Phase III, according to program officials.

The Boeing UCAV concept exploits real-time, on-board and off-board sensors to quickly detect, identify and locate both fixed, relocatable, and mobile targets. Secure communications and advanced cognitive decision aids will provide a human operator with the situational awareness and positive air vehicle control necessary to authorize munitions release. Boeing's tailless, stealthy air vehicle will carry multiple advanced, precision-guided munitions and relay battlefield damage indication information back to the mission control system. Maintained in pristine condition and stored in ready-to-ship containers until called into service, the Boeing UCAV system will be capable of global deployment and operations in concert with manned Air Expeditionary Forces.

The UCAV is designed to carry a variety of weapons and be stored unassembled in small container for up to 10 years. It can be restored in one hour and up to six UCAVs can fit inside a C-17 Globemaster III. Flight-testing the UCAV was slated to begin in the spring of 2001 at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif. Further risk production and operation evaluation efforts also must occur before the Air Force deems the UCAV feasible for mass production. The objective is to have all the testing completed by 2005. This would provide the necessary information needed to field these aircraft by 2010 if the Air Force decides to use them.

The X-45 model UCAV is designed to fly a 650-mile round-trip mission, loitering perhaps a half-hour over a target, and drop 3,000 pounds of guided bombs. At $10-$15 million apiece, the X-45 UCAV, without all the expensive human requirements for life-support systems and visual instruments, would cost about a third as much as the $45 million JSF.

Two X-45A air vehicles were built, both having the same outer moldline and aeropropulsion integration as initially envisioned for the UCAV operational system. Each vehicle has one working weapons bay, with an avionics pallet located in the other bay. The X-45A's flight controls are all-electric, except for the nose wheel steering and braking system. The aircraft is powered by a Honeywell F124 engine and is designed to achieve 0.8 M at 40,000 ft with flight duration of approximately 90 minutes. The engine is fed through a serpentine inlet and uses a yaw thrust vectoring system. The program is also supported by a T-33 aircraft that acts as a surrogate UCAV. A Boeing corporate asset on loan to the program, the T-33 has been modified to carry the same avionics suite as the X-45. The X-45A assets will be upgraded after demonstration Block 3 to continue multi-ship demonstrations with the X-45B vehicles.

Flight tests being undertaken as part of Spiral 0. On 27 September 2000 the Boeing Aircraft Company unveiled the first X-45A Unmanned Combat Air Vehicle, which is only 27 feet long with a 34-foot wingspan. The X-45As is designed to test the flight envelope of the basic UCAV design.

The X-45A completed its first flight on May 22, 2002 that lasted for 14-minutes. The X-45A flew at NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center on Edwards Air Force Basereaching an airspeed of 195 knots and an altitude of 7,500 feet. Flight characteristics and basic aspects of aircraft operations, particularly the command and control link between the aircraft and mission-control station, were successfully demonstrated.

Later in 2002, a second X-45A is to begin flying, leading to the start of multi-aircraft flight-test demonstrations in 2003. The X-45A flight tests are scheduled to proceed through about the end of calendar year 2004.


MPEG of First Flight [20 Megs]



MOV of First Flight [6 Megs]

As of 2004 Spiral 1 started with the design and development of the X-45B and the system software needed to complete the last two blocks of the demonstration program that will culminate in a joint exercise. Spiral 2 had a goal of 14 X-45C air vehicles fielded for early operational assessment, starting at the end of 2007.

Spiral 1 built two X-45B UCAV demonstrators that were intended to be identical in almost every way to the final, operational airframe. In addition to two X-45A vehicles currently being tested, design of a third demonstrator system (X-45B air vehicle, mission control system, and support segment) was slated to join the demonstration program in early 2005.

The X-45B is longer, has a greater wingspan -- 47 feet vs. 33.6 feet -- and has a stealthy, low observable design. The program schedule called for conducting the first flight of the X-45B about the time the last of the X-45A flight tests are completed. In August 2002 Boeing Co. was awarded a $460-million defense contract for development of the X-45B. The contract would lead to design, development and construction of two X-45B aircraft by 2005.

The larger X-45B was to more closely represent the operational system as currently envisioned, to include integrated avionics, two fully functional weapons bays, incorporation of low observable technologies, and provisions for the full sensor suite, MILSTAR, and aerial refueling. A second generation container system and mission control system shelter will also be developed. Three X-45B air vehicles were planned.

Spiral 2, the first production spiral, would follow in 2008, and result in 14 mission capable UCAVs. The vehicle will carry Joint Direct Attack Munitions and Small Diameter Bombs, and may have an electronic attack capabilities.



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