Friday, March 3, 2006
By JAMES WALLACE
P-I AEROSPACE REPORTER
The Boeing Co. program to develop a large, unmanned combat jet for the Air
Force has been canceled, but the company said it will shift its efforts to
an unmanned version for the Navy.
About 233 Boeing employees, mostly software engineers, have been working on
the X-45C program in the Puget Sound area. It is not clear if they will
continue with the Navy plane or be used for other work programs with
Boeing's defense and space unit.
The Joint Unmanned Combat Air Systems included about $800 million to build
three X-45C unmanned combat vehicles for the Air Force. The first, which was
being built in St. Louis, was to have been ready for ground testing in
California later this year.
Boeing released a statement Thursday that the X-45C project was over.
"The J-UCAS Program will become a U.S. Navy program, in which the Navy
intends to demonstrate the carrier suitability of an unmanned long endurance
carrier based aircraft," the statement said. It added:
"The technology Boeing demonstrated in the X-45 program and the advances we
have made in unmanned systems have given us a competitive advantage that can
be applied to an unmanned carrier based aircraft designed to meet the Navy's
future intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance requirements."
Northrop Grumman is already developing its own unmanned fighter for the
Navy, the X-47B, that can take off from and land on an aircraft carrier.
That could give Northrop an advantage over Boeing's plane since Boeing's is
getting a late start.
The X-45C represented a quantum leap in technology and capability over all
other unmanned aircraft, such as the Predator being used today for CIA and
U.S. military missions in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The X-45C would have been a true combat vehicle, designed to attack in
swarms on the opening day of a war, taking out enemy missile batteries and
anti-aircraft sensors -- the kind of high-risk missions that can cost
fighter pilots their lives.
Boeing built two smaller X-45As that last year completed more than 60 test
flights at Edwards Air Force Base in California and laid the groundwork for
development of the full-size fighter, the X-45C. In their final test in
August, the two X-45As used their onboard decision-making software to
determine the best routes through a "battlefield" measuring about 30 by 60
miles. They then performed simulated attacks on ground-based radars and
The X-45 was developed through Boeing's Phantom Works, under a $1.2 billion
contract from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA, the
agency that spurred development of the F-117 stealth fighter.
P-I aerospace reporter James Wallace can be reached at 206-448-8040 or
Northrup Grumman = Pwned
Seriously, the X-45 is a significantly more mature aircraft which has a FMS and AI that are pretty far along in development. The X-47 has yet to fly in anything but remote control mode.
The thing I want to see, but won't since I'm sure it's a SAR project is the Lockheed Martin submarine deployable and recoverable UCAV.
Why did the Air Farce cancel it in the first place?
The figher mafia was terrified that the YF-45 (AKA X-45c depdending on whose nomenclature you use) was going to dejustify the F-35. The X-45 is/waqs a more capable airplane that we could buy by the thousands with little maintnance cost. It would have been a huge force mutliplier, but when all was said and done the powers that be decided it was more important to make sure stick jockies still had sky under their asses rather then making the right decesion for the defense of this country.
Personally, I can't wait to board CVN-21 and see X-47s racked and stacked ready to go.
No need to fly them for training, you just unleash them and hell all at once.
probably so save $$ for the F-22. Let the Navy fork over for a decade of R&D. The AF will buy finished units later.
That's the thing about UCAVs. You can build them en mass using cheaper automated production methods like friction stir welding because your not going to have to be going in for maintnance all the time. We can build these things by the thousand and have them stored at depots until they are needed. We don't have to be doing flight training, we don't have to be expending fuel. It will be a revolution in procurment that will finally counter the ever increasing cost of aircraft. Don't get me wrong, these things are going to be the best thing that's ever happened to carrier aviation, (waiting for super bug proponets to respond) my point is that the USAF needs UCAVs just as badly as the navy does. We should have axed the F-35 and dumped more money into the X-45c, and then started a secondary program for a UCAV no-boom heavy bomber.
Alas, the people calling the shots are bound and determined to make sure that the USAF will always have guys in flight suits with sky under their asses.
Cancelling the X-45 was stupid stupid stupid.
X-47 looks cooler though.
I think that the USAF should have picked either the F-22 or the F-35 and then built a shitload of them, like 600+.
Then they should have developed their UCAV and built twice as many of them.
Then they should of built enough spares to cover a 50 year life span of each.
Then they should store 2/3rds of them in undisclosed locations and fly the remaining ones for training and combat.
The F-35's potential exists as an export fighter.
Most nations cannot afford the F-22 (like the F-15), so we're building a low mix of F-35's (like the F-16) that will appeal to smaller nations. If the US doesn't fly it, chances are potential customers won't fly it either. The F-35 has the potential to be the biggest defense export program ever.
And it would sure be nice to buy shitload of F-22s, but even the US cannot afford all we want.
Cancelling the X-45 was a bad move for the USAF. But for DOD, it may be a good thing. If it keeps the F-35 in good shape, AND the USN can get X-45's or 47's going, then it's a good thing all around.
The F-35 is a much more developed program that is safer. The X-45/47 has much more long term potential, but the risk is much greater.
I don't get it.
I thought the UAV was the wave of the future.
So, the US Mil aviation community throws that all over to save the F-22/-35 programs?
Can that sucker maneuver at high angles of attack with the intake on top there?
No the US Mil av community did not throw it out. The USN is still running with it.
Why does the UCAS need to maneuver at high angle of attack?
These vehicles can maeuver to AoA and deck angles sufficient to accomplish their mission; upper surface location is not necessarily a discriminator on its own, the whole airframe and diffuser has to be integrated. It's easy to build a crappy inlet and diffuser installed on the bottom of the airplane, too, particularly if you think location will fix all the design considerations.