Boeing unveils secret stealth test plane

Boeing unveils secret stealth test plane
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November 2002

Boeing has unveiled the "Bird of Prey" technology demonstrator - a once highly classified project that pioneered numerous aircraft design, development and production technologies during the 1990's. New stealth concepts, rapid prototyping techniques and cost-effective 3-D virtual reality design and assembly processes were among the technologies pioneered by the bat-like Bird of Prey that have since become industry standards, removing the need to keep the aircraft's existence a secret.

The subsonic, single-seat technology demonstrator, the aircraft completed 38 test flights as part of its flight-demonstration program. Its first flight took place in fall 1996. Bird of Prey has a wingspan of approximately 23 feet and a length of 47 feet, and weighs nearly 7,400 pounds. Powered by a Pratt & Whitney JT15D-5C turbofan engine, the Bird of Prey has an operational speed of 260 knots and a maximum operating altitude of 20,000 feet.

"Early investments in technology demonstration projects such as Bird of Prey have positioned Boeing to help shape our industry's transformation," said Jim Albaugh, president and CEO of Boeing Integrated Defense Systems. "With this aircraft, we changed the rules on how to design and build an aircraft, and what we've learned is enabling us to provide our customers with affordable, high-performing products. Projects such as Bird of Prey have provided the catalyst for integrating speed, agility and reduced cost into the processes we employ to introduce new commercial and military systems to market."

The Bird of Prey is closely related to the Boeing X-45A Unmanned Combat Air Vehicle currently under development, which also has stealth capabilities.

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This aircraft is currently on display the the National Museum of the United States Air Force in Dayton, OH.
Sure looks cool, but what could be the purpose for such a craft? 260 knots and a ceiling of 20,000'? And at what cost ... maybe $25 to $50 million each in quantity? I think I'll stick with the A-10 Warthog at $19 million a pop and with a ceiling of 45,000' and cruising speed of 300 knots. Who needs stealth when you're coming in at under 100' with a mini-gun?