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Bomber, Spy Plane, UAV

It could be a long range strike platform. It could use SAR and electro-optical sensors to spy on an enemy. About the only thing it won't do is serve as an attack fighter. It is Boeing's Phantom Ray, an unmanned aerial system being developed by the company's Phantom Works.

The company will roll out the new plane in May. It should taxi in July. Then it will move to NASA's Dryden site at Edwards Air Force Base for flight and other tests, which should begin in December. The plane's General Electric F404-GE-102D engine "is coming together very nicely and should show up here in next two months for installation." Darryl Davis, Boeing Phantom Works president, told reporters. "We are progressing very rapidly to first flight," he said in a conference call.

The plane boasts two weapons bays, each capable of carrying a single 2000 pound JDAMS, or four Small Diameter Bombs in each bay. As an ISR platform, the plane can carry SAR and E/O sensors in those bays. "Those bays are very flexible," he said.

The Phantom Ray is a rejigger of Boeing's X-45. The company is funding the plane itself to maintain skills and jobs and other industrial base assets while the Pentagon makes up its mind about just what mix of platforms will make up its long range strike capability. "That's really what Phantom Ray was all about," he said. Davis said the plane boasts a range of 1,000 nautical miles (2,000 roundtrip) with a 4,500 pound payload and is talking with the Pentagon about the plane also doing autonomous aerial refueling.

In addition to the long range strike capability, Davis said much of Phantom Ray's gear would make it a good match for the MQ-X competition and the Navy’s F/A-XX future strike aircraft.

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