Navy Killer Drone Complete; 1st Flight Set for ‘09 — X-47 Pegasus Video — X-51A WaveRider meets B-52 — Boeing X45A (UCAV)  “Phantom Ray” Video — Boeing to Develop, Fly ‘Phantom Ray’ Technology Demonstrator — DARA Plans Triple-Target Missile Demo — Inside the bad-ass world of military research projects (Falcon – F6 – ISIS – Vulture – GALE) — Update: RQ-170 Sentinel USAF Confirmed & Phantom Eye — X37B Updated Links & Video -x-37B Landing



DARPA is the central research and development organization for the U.S. Department of Defense. DARPA’s mission is to maintain the technological superiority of the U.S. military and prevent technological surprise from harming our national security. We fund researchers in industry, universities, government laboratories and elsewhere to conduct high-risk, high-reward research and development projects that will benefit U.S. national security.

DARPA research runs the gamut from conducting basic, fundamental scientific investigations in a laboratory setting to building full-scale prototypes of military systems. We fund research in a wide variety of scientific disciplines — biology, medicine, computer science, chemistry, physics, engineering, mathematics, material sciences, social sciences, neuroscience, and more.

Our contracted researchers build information systems, aircraft, robots, spacecraft, microcircuits, lasers, sensors, rifles, advanced networks, medical devices, and much, much more. When a DARPA research program is completed, the technology is available to the Military Services and defense contractors for use in military systems.



Navy Killer Drone Complete; 1st Flight Set for ‘09

Danger Room: By Noah Shachtman Email Author, December 17, 2008

Six months ago, a leading defense think tank warned that the Navy might cancel its killer drone project, the unmanned combat air system demonstration (UCAS-D). Today, the Navy is expanding the experimental robo-plane’s set of missions; not only will it be expected to take off from a carrier; it’s now supposed to autonomously refuel in mid-flight, as well. And Northrop Grumman, which is making a pair of X-47B drones for the $600 million, five-year program, is showing off its first completed aircraft. (Ares has a bunch of pictures.)

Unlike today’s crop of armed drones, the UCAS-D planes are supposed to be stealthy, and able to operate largely on their own. If they fly as planned, they’ll be a major leap from the current fleet of Reaper and Predator robocraft.

The company says the X-47B will “now undergo subsystem and structural testing in preparation for first flight in fall 2009.” Carrier trials for the killer drone are scheduled for 2011. [Photo: NGC]


The X-51A WaveRider hypersonic flight test vehicle was uploaded to an Air Force Flight Test Center B-52 for fit testing at Edwards Air Force Base on July 17. Two B-52 flights, one captive carriage and one dress rehearsal, are planned this fall prior to the X-51’s first Mach 6 plus scramjet flight over the Pacific Ocean scheduled in December. The Air Force Research Laboratory, DARPA, Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne, and Boeing are partnering on the X-51A technology demonstrator program. (Air Force photo by Chad Bellay)


X-51A WaveRider meets B-52

By Derek Kaufman,  88th Air Base Wing Public Affairs

8/4/2009 – WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio — Airmen successfully mated the X-51A WaveRider flight test vehicle to a B-52 Stratofortress at Edwards Air Force Base July 17. The fit check followed integration earlier in the month of the Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne scramjet propulsion system into the X-51 at Air Force Plant 42 in Palmdale, Calif.

The X-51 test vehicle is now back at the Boeing facility in Palmdale where additional systems integration and testing are taking place in preparation for its inaugural flight test in December, said Charlie Brink, X-51 program manager from the Air Force Research Laboratory’s Propulsion Directorate at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.

During the flight test, currently planned Dec. 2, the Air Force Flight Test Center’s B-52 will carry the X-51A to 50,000 feet over the Pacific Ocean then release it. A solid rocket booster from an ATACMS missile will then ignite and accelerate the X-51 to about Mach 4.5. Then the supersonic combustion ramjet propulsion system will propel the vehicle for five minutes to more than Mach 6. Hypersonic combustion generates intense heat and routing of the engine’s own JP-7 fuel will help keep the engine at the desired operating temperature.

Engineers expect a great deal will be learned about hypersonic flight during the nearly 300 seconds under scramjet power. The longest-ever previous scramjet test, lasted only about 10 seconds, Brink said. As the engine ignites it will initially burn a mix of ethylene and JP-7 before switching exclusively to JP-7 fuel.

“The heart of this aircraft is its engine,” said Brink. “We’re really breaking new ground in our understanding of hypersonic propulsion, but our four planned test flights will also enhance our knowledge of airframe-engine integration, high-temperature materials and other technologies. Together they will help us bridge air and space.”

Data from the flight will be telemetered back to Edwards before the X-51A test vehicle plunges into the Pacific.

Two B-52 flights, one captive carriage and one dress rehearsal, are planned this Fall prior to the X-51’s first powered flight scheduled in December, Brink said.

The X-51A WaveRider program is a joint effort by the U.S. Air Force, DARPA, Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne, and Boeing.

090717-F-0289B-025 Staff Sgt. Jonathan Young with the 412th Maintenance Group prepares to upload the X-51A WaveRider hypersonic flight test vehicle to a B-52 for fit testing at Edwards Air Force Base on July 17. (Air Force photo by Chad Bellay)

Update (5/26/10) Via SeattlePI Blog: Boeing: Hypersonic scramjet sets record in first flight



Boeing to Develop, Fly ‘Phantom Ray’ Technology Demonstrator

ST. LOUIS, May 08, 2009 — The Boeing Company [NYSE: BA] plans to develop and demonstrate an unmanned flying test bed for advanced air system technologies. The internally funded program, called Phantom Ray, will use the prototype vehicle that Boeing originally developed for the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA)/U.S. Air Force/U.S. Navy Joint-Unmanned Combat Air System (J-UCAS) program.

The Phantom Ray demonstrator is scheduled to make its first flight in December 2010. The aircraft will conduct 10 flights over a period of approximately six months, supporting missions that may include intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance; suppression of enemy air defenses; electronic attack; hunter/killer; and autonomous aerial refueling. The Boeing Phantom Works organization is employing rapid-prototyping techniques that facilitate the speed and agility needed to meet the 2010 flight schedule.

“Boeing’s goals for the Phantom Ray program clearly demonstrate our commitment to rapid prototyping and are an important part of the company’s efforts to be a leader in the unmanned aircraft business,” said Phantom Works President Darryl Davis. “We have mobilized our assets to continue the tremendous potential we developed under J-UCAS, and now will fully demonstrate that capability.”

Phantom Ray will pick up where the UCAS program left off in 2006 by further demonstrating Boeing’s unmanned systems development capabilities in a fighter-sized, state-of-the-art aerospace system. The Boeing UCAS program began with the X-45A, which successfully flew 64 times from 2002 to 2005. Those flights included a demonstration exercise with two X-45A aircraft that marked the first unmanned, autonomous multivehicle flight under the control of a single pilot. Boeing also designed a larger UCAS aircraft, the X-45C, which will serve as the basis for the Phantom Ray demonstrator.

“What is particularly exciting about Phantom Ray is that we will incorporate the latest technologies into the superb X-45C airframe design,” said Dave Koopersmith, vice president of Boeing Advanced Military Aircraft, a division of Phantom Works. “As we gradually expand the vehicle’s flight envelope, potential users will have access to a full range of unique capabilities that only this type of autonomous platform can provide.”

Lab testing for the Phantom Ray air vehicle is scheduled for late 2009, followed by ground testing and first flight in 2010.


Boeing ‘Phantom Eye’ Hydrogen Powered Vehicle Takes Shape

ST. LOUIS, March 8, 2010 — The Boeing Company [NYSE: BA] has begun to build Phantom Eye — its first unmanned, liquid-hydrogen powered, high altitude long endurance (HALE) demonstrator aircraft.

“The essence of Phantom Eye is its propulsion system,” said Darryl Davis, Boeing Phantom Works president. “After five years of technology development, we are now deploying rapid prototyping to bring together an unmanned aerial vehicle [UAV] with a breakthrough liquid-hydrogen propulsion system that will be ready to fly early next year.”

Phantom Eye’s entire propulsion system — including the engine, turbo chargers and engine control system — successfully completed an 80-hour test in an altitude chamber on March 1, clearing the way for the propulsion system and UAV to be assembled.

The twin-engine Phantom Eye demonstrator will have a 150-foot wingspan and be capable of flying for more than four days at altitudes up to 65,000 feet while carrying a payload of up to 450 pounds. Phantom Eye is designed to maintain a persistent presence in the stratosphere over a specific area, while performing missions that could include intelligence, reconnaissance, surveillance and communication. Boeing also is developing a larger HALE that will stay aloft for more than 10 days and carry payloads of more than 2,000 pounds, and building “Phantom Ray,” a fighter-sized UAV that will be a flying test bed for advanced technologies.

“We believe Phantom Eye and Phantom Ray represent two areas where the unmanned aerial vehicle market is heading, and rapid prototyping is the key to getting us there,” said Dave Koopersmith, Advanced Boeing Military Aircraft vice president. “These innovative demonstrators reduce technology risks and set the stage for meeting both military and commercial customers’ future needs.”

Phantom Eye evolved from Boeing’s earlier success with the piston-powered Condor that set several records for altitude and endurance in the late 1980s. Boeing, as the Phantom Eye system designer, is working closely with Ball Aerospace, Aurora Flight Sciences, Ford Motor Co. and MAHLE Powertrain to develop the demonstrator.

Phantom Ray evolved from the X-45C program. It is scheduled to make its first flight in December.

A unit of The Boeing Company, Boeing Defense, Space & Security is one of the world’s largest defense, space and security businesses specializing in innovative and capabilities-driven customer solutions, and the world’s largest and most versatile manufacturer of military aircraft. Headquartered in St. Louis, Boeing Defense, Space & Security is a $34 billion business with 68,000 employees worldwide.

Kandahar’s Loch Ness mystery plane returns

USAF CONFIRMS (RQ-170 Sentinel)

U.S. Air Force Reveals Operational Stealth UAV


Darpa Plans Triple-Target Missile Demo

Aviation Week’s DTI | Graham Warwick | May 26, 2009

This article first appeared in Aerospace Daily & Defense Report.

A new program to develop a high-speed, long-range airborne weapon that can engage aircraft, cruise missiles and air defenses is part of the U.S. Defense Advanced Projects Research Agency’s $3.25 billion Fiscal 2010 budget request.

The Triple Target Terminator (T3) would be carried internally or externally on fighters, bombers and unmanned aircraft, allowing them to switch between air-to-air and air-to-surface capability and increasing the variety of targets engaged on each sortie.

Funding a $7 million is sought in Fiscal 2010 to begin the T3 program, which would look at technologies for propulsion, multi-mode seekers, data links, digital guidance and control and advanced warheads.

Other new program starts sought in Fiscal 2010 include: Autonomous Aerial Refueling, to demonstrate high-altitude refueling between unmanned aircraft, using probe- and drogue-equipped Global Hawk UAVs; a Transformer Vehicle (TX), a road-able aircraft with hybrid electric ducted-fan propulsion capable of flying for two hours carrying one to four people; and a Submersible Aircraft, seen as capable of flying and submerging.

Another planned new program is Silent Talk, to develop the capability to communicate without speaking by recognizing the neural signals for specific words. “The brain generates word-specific signals prior to sending electrical impulses to the vocal chords,” according to Darpa.

The plan is to recognize these “intended speech” signals using electroencephalography (EEG) and translate them into words, allowing covert communications. Initially Darpa wants to identify EEG patterns unique to 100 words commonly used by warfighters.


Inside the bad-ass world of military research projects

DARPA’s projects run the gamut from building extremely fast, secure networks, and developing higher, longer flying unmanned aircraft to bio-related advances

By Layer 8 on Mon, 05/18/09 – 9:42am.

When it comes to building the most advanced, bad-ass technologies around there are few science enclaves that can match the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.  Last week the outfit detailed nine top strategic research programs in a 57-page report.  The report states the programs will lead to revolutionary, radical high-payoff (and many times high-cost) technology advances.

Indeed DARPA’s projects run the gamut from building extremely fast, secure networks, and developing higher, longer flying unmanned aircraft to bio-related advances that help bring vaccines to a useful state faster and space technologies that offer modular satellite systems.

If you want to get a general idea of the scope of DARPA’s programs, here is a short list of research projects on the table. Most of which are spelled out with more detail later:

-Accelerated Development and Production of Therapeutics: rapidly and inexpensively manufacture millions of doses of life saving drugs or vaccines in weeks, instead of the years required to ramp up today’s manufacturing practices.

-Blue Laser for Submarine Laser Communications: provide for timely, large area submarine communications at speed and depth, which no other future or existing system, or combinations of systems, can do.

-High Energy Liquid Laser Area Defense System: novel, compact, high power lasers making practical small-size and low-weight speed-of-light weapons for tactical mobile air- and ground-vehicles.

-High Productivity Computing Systems: supercomputers are fundamental to a variety of military operations, from weather forecasting to cryptography to the design of new weapons; DARPA is working to maintain our global lead in this technology.

-Networks: self-forming, robust, self-defending networks at the strategic and tactical level are the key to network-centric warfare; these networks will use spectrum far more efficiently and resist disruption if the GPS time signal is unavailable.

-Quantum Information Science: exploiting quantum phenomena in the fields of computing, cryptography, and communications, with the promise of opening new frontiers in each area.

-Real-Time Accurate Language Translation: real-time machine language translation of structured and unstructured text and speech with near-expert human translation accuracy.

The nine strategic programs feature a multitude of technologies as you might guess. Here I have tried to distill some of the most advanced here from DARPA’s Strategic Plan 2009 report, including:


Ground control to Major Tom: Space is where it’s at

As you may know, DARPA began as a space agency, when the shock of Sputnik caused Americans to believe the Soviet Union had seized “the ultimate high ground.” DARPA’s space strategy includes a number of ambitious projects including:

The Falcon program has been working to build a jet that can hit the Mach  6+ range.  A major goal of the program is to flight-test key hypersonic cruise vehicle technologies in a realistic flight environment. Recently DARPA conducted both low- and high-speed wind tunnel tests that validate the stability and control of the hypersonic technology. Test flights are planned from Vandenberg Air Force Base to Kwajalein Atoll to test thermal and aerodynamic control systems. One flight will follow a fairly direct trajectory, while the second “buttonhook” trajectory will demonstrate significant cross-range maneuver capability.


DARPA’s System F6 program takes a dramatically new approach towards designing, building, launching, and operating larger spacecraft. The F6 or Future, Fast, Flexible, Fractionated, Free-Flying Spacecraft United by Information Exchange also known as the System F6, is intended to let the agency deploy individual pieces or what it calls “fractionated modules” of current all-in-one satellites. For example, each fractionated module would support a unique capability, such as command and control, data handling, guidance and navigation, payload. Modules could replicate the functions of other modules as well. Such modules can be physically connected once in orbit or remain nearby to each other in a loose formation, or cluster, harnessed together through a wireless network they create a virtual satellite.

According to DARPA such a virtual satellite effectively constitutes a “bus in the sky” – wherein customers need only provide and deploy a payload module suited to their immediate mission need, with the supporting features supplied by a global network of infrastructure modules already resident on-orbit and at critical ground locations. In addition, there can be sharing of resources between various “spacecraft” that are within sufficient range for communication. DARPA said the within the F6 network all subsystems and payloads can be treated like a uniquely addressable computing peripheral or network device.

Meanwhile, the Space Surveillance Telescope (SST) program will enhance space situational awareness by demonstrating rapid, unsecured search, detection, and tracking of faint, deep-space objects. SST is using curved focal plane array technology to develop a large-aperture optical telescope with very wide field of view to detect and track new and unidentified objects that suddenly appear with unknown purpose or intent, such as small, potentially hazardous debris objects and future generations of small satellites.

DARPA’s ISIS program recently got the go ahead to build a roughly 1/3-scale model of a stratospheric airship that if completed in-scale will basically house a floating 15-story radar system capable of detecting and tracking everything from small cruise missiles and unmanned aerial vehicles to soldiers and  small vehicles under foliage up to 300 kilometers away.


The move to unmanned warfare

Without a doubt unmanned aircraft have already had a huge impact on military and civilian flying worlds. DARPA says its efforts have been focused in two areas: First, to improve individual platforms so that they provide new or improved capabilities, such as unprecedented endurance or survivability. Second, expand the level of autonomy and robustness of robotic systems.

Some of the more advanced unmanned aircraft projects include:

-The A160 program is developing an unmanned helicopter for intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) missions, with long endurance – up to 20 hours – and the ability to hover at high altitudes. In 2008, the A160 set a world record for UAV endurance when it completed an 18.7 hour endurance flight. The A160 concept is being evaluated for surveillance and targeting, communications and data relay, crew recovery, resupply of forces in the field, and special operations missions in support of Army, Navy, Marine Corps, and other needs.


Vulture will develop an aircraft capable of remaining on-station for over five years, pushing technology and design so that the system may not require refueling or maintenance. A single Vulture aircraft could support traditional intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance functions over country-sized areas, while also providing geostationary satellite-class communication capabilities but at a fraction of the cost.

-Rapid Eye program is creating the capability to deliver a persistent intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance asset anywhere worldwide within one to two hours. The program will develop a high-altitude, long-endurance, unmanned aircraft that can be put on existing space launch systems, withstand atmosphere re-entry, and provide efficient propulsion in a low-oxygen environment at low speed.

Just as air vehicles have moved toward both increased mission complexity and increased environmental complexity, DARPA is also trying to increase both the mission and environmental complexity for autonomous ground vehicles. This will help meet the Congressional goal that, by 2015, one third of US operational ground combat vehicles will be unmanned.

The Unmanned Ground Combat Vehicle – Perception for Off-Road Robotics (PerceptOR) – Integration (UPI) program demonstrated an unmanned ground vehicle (UGV) capability. DARPA has begun to transition this technology to the Army, and provided a prototype ground vehicle with PerceptOR vehicle control algorithms and software to the Army Tank-Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center to use in developing a UGV control architecture, and conducting vehicle design and control risk mitigation activities for Future Combat Systems vehicle.

Getting more power in the face of the enemy

By using improved information technology, DARPA intends to reduce the layers and amount of infrastructure needed to operate the computers, software applications, and networks that support the front-line fighting forces, letting military personnel conduct new kinds of missions in new ways.

The fundamental goal is to get a larger proportion of forces into the fight.

With that in mind, DARPA said it as embarked on an ambitious mission to create a new generation of computing systems – cognitive computers – to dramatically reduce military manpower and extend the capabilities of military personnel. DARPA’s cognitive computing research is developing technologies that will enable computer systems to learn, reason and apply knowledge gained through experience, and respond intelligently to new and unforeseen events.

The Personalized Assistant that Learns (PAL) program has been developing integrated cognitive systems to act as personalized executive-style assistants to military commanders and decision-makers. PAL is creating a new generation of machine learning technology so information systems automatically adjust to new environments and new users, help commanders maintain the battle rhythm and adapt to new enemy tactics, evolving situations and priorities, and accelerate the incorporation of new personnel into command operations, while making more effective use of resources.

DARPA’s Integrated Learning program has demonstrated software that an learn these planning tasks by watching examples.

Once the system learns a planning task, it can then support other operators who are perhaps less expert by guiding them through the task. This software will eventually make it practical to create many sophisticated decision support systems that will make operators faster and more effective.

Improved real-time translation of foreign languages at both the strategic and tactical levels is another important way computers can assist the military and civilians. Real-time language translation technology will help US forces better understand adversaries and overall social and political contexts of the operational areas. This improved awareness will decrease costly mistakes due to misunderstandings, and also improve the chances of success.


The goal of the Global Autonomous Language Exploitation (GALE) program is to translate and distill foreign language material (television shows and newspapers) in near real-time, highlight the salient information, and store the results in a searchable database. Through this process, GALE would be able to produce high-quality answers to the types of questions that are normally pro-vided by bi-lingual intelligence analysts.

GALE is making progress toward achieving this very ambitious goal by 2011.  The agency is developing the System for Tactical Use program, a two-way speech translation system to convert spoken foreign language input to English output and vice versa…]


Related Previous Posts:

America’s Two Air Forces

“Sign of the Times” USA No Longer A Superpower In The Aircraft Industry?

Related Links:

ReEnvisioning DARPA (PDF) December 2008

WIKI: DARPA Falcon Project

WIKI: Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA)

Defense Link: Engine Program Aims to Meet Military’s Need for Speed

Popsci:  Darpa’s First Robotic Ornithopter Hovers, Flies Like a Hummingbird (Video)

Climate Progress: Memo to DARPA, Pentagon: Stay out of geoengineering — aka climate manipulation! March 16, 2009

Kompas (x-37): The USAF’s Secret Spaceplane

DARPA-SN-10-25 Next Generation Close Air Support Request for Information (3 Pages)(PDF)


Some Details of Secretive X-37B Space Plane Revealed

Experimental X-37B Robot Space Plane to Launch Thursday

US military’s top secret X-37B shuttle ‘disappears’ for two weeks, changes orbit

Vandenberg sets stage for unmanned spacecraft

Preparations underway for first landing of X-37B

30th Space Wing Public Affairs  11/30/2010 – VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. — Preparations for the first landing of the X-37B are underway at Vandenberg Air Force Base.

Space professionals from the 30th Space Wing will monitor the de-orbit and landing of the Air Force’s first X-37B, called the Orbital Test Vehicle 1 (OTV-1). While the exact landing date and time will depend on technical and weather considerations, it is expected to occur between Friday, December 3, and Monday, December 6, 2010.

NORAD ID: 36514
Int’l Code: 2010-015A
Perigee: 284.9 km
Apogee: 295.8 km
Inclination: 40.0°
Period: 90.2 min
Semi major axis: 6,661.4 km
Launch date: April 22, 2010
Source: United States (US)
Comments: It will land on a runway originally built for the space shuttle at Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif. Officially named the Orbital Test Vehicle. Besides saying the mission will demonstrate the craft’s high-tech capabilities, the Air Force is not releasing any information on what experiments or objectives are planned while the X-37B is in orbit.

Two Line Element Set (TLE):

1 36514U 10015A   10327.74357191  .00025051  00000-0  55503-4 0    04
2 36514  39.9869 111.4048 0008163   6.5863 353.5069 15.96830074    04

More details about OTV 1 (USA 212)


DEC 3, 2010 – 1:16 a.m. PST LANDING

*** UPDATE ***



Updated Kandahar Loch Ness mystery, RQ-170 Sentinel & X-37 Links  – end