The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency
(DARPA) and U.S. Air Force today selected The Boeing Company, Phantom Works,
Seattle, Wash., and St. Louis, Mo., to continue into the second phase of
the Unmanned Combat AirVehicle (UCAV) Advanced Technology Demonstration
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.
The goal of the joint DARPA/Air Force UCAV ATD program is to demonstrate the technical feasibility for a UCAV system to effectively and affordably prosecute 21st century Suppression of Enemy Air Defenses (SEAD) and strike missions. During the first phase of the program, three industry teams completed exhaustive mission effectiveness and affordability trades to optimize their operational system design, identified critical technologies and issues, and planned their phase II demonstration program.
The UCAV ATD is the next step on the path to a
revolutionary new weapon system that will augment future manned systems
as part of an integrated, post-2010 force structure. 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.
"During Phase I, we challenged the industry teams to truly 'think out of the box' and to let the mission requirements drive them to an overall, optimized system solution," said DARPA Program Manager Larry Birckelbaw. "All three of the Phase I industry teams put in outstanding efforts and developed innovative designs with compelling operational effectiveness and affordability. Overcoming the technical challenges to conduct these demanding and dangerous missions with an unmanned system will provide the warfighter with a revolutionary capability that saves lives."
"Working together with the warfighter, the laboratory, and the acquisition community, the industry teams have pushed this concept to the limits possible in a paper study," noted Air Force Deputy Program Manager Lt. Col. Michael Leahy. "We are very excited to take the next step and work with the excellent team Boeing has assembled to demonstrate technical feasibility and confirm or refute their Phase I predictions."
The UCAV weapon systems is primarily designed to conduct pre-emptive and reactive suppression of enemy air defense missions effectively and affordably against the anticipated 2010 threats. It will also be highly capable of conducting other strike and peacekeeping missions.
X-45A UCAV under development at Boeing Phantom Works. Image source: AFFTC