Af Bird Of Prey

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boss hawg
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Post by boss hawg » Thu Oct 31, 2002 8:39 am

Received this from a bud - thought it might be of interest:

AIRCRAFT TECHNOLOGY - AF Bird of Prey - The latest "Black" Aircraft revealed

This morning, October 18, 2002, the Air Force and Boeing unveiled to a small group of selected journalists the Bird of Prey, a previously "black" or ultra-secret airplane prototype that was built and tested in the mid-1990s. The unveiling took place at Boeing's Phantom Works facility in St. Louis.

<a href='http://www.popsci.com/popsci/flat_files ... ide01.html' target='_blank'>http://www.popsci.com/popsci/flat_files ... 01.html</a>

Black airplanes-their existence itself is secret-are used to demonstrate high-risk technologies with a big military payoff, and a revelation like this is a once-or-twice-a-decade event. Most of these vehicles are tested at Area 51, the Air Force's secret flight-test center in Nevada.

The Bird of Prey (it looks more like the Klingon Bird of Prey from Star Trek than any feathered creature) is a prototype for a very stealthy fighter or tactical bomber. Some of its features are also in use on Boeing's X-45 Unmanned Combat Air Vehicle (UCAV) prototype.

Stay tuned for a more detailed report early this afternoon, and read our January issue for a full-length analysis of the Bird of Prey.

The white-painted patch in front of the jet inlet on the newly revealed, previously top-secret Boeing Bird of Prey demonstrator is a dead giveaway: This stealth airplane owns not only the night but the daytime too. Senior officials at the October 18 unveiling of the radical prototype&mdashnamed after the Klingon spacecraft in Star Trek, which shares its aft-set, cranked wings&mdashacknowledged that the Bird of Prey was designed to be stealthy enough to survive in broad daylight. Today's F-117 and B-2 operate only at night.

The white patch offsets shadows cast by the jet inlet, as part of a sophisticated camouflage scheme. Officially, Boeing and the Air Force say only that the airplane tested "new low-observables technologies," but it's more than likely that other techniques&mdashsuch as lamps or luminous panels for eliminating shadows&mdashwere used as well. The jet also employs new technologies to reduce its radar signature, such as flexible covers that join the moveable control surfaces to the wings. These covers conceal gaps that might cause unwanted radar reflections.

The Bird of Prey has made 38 flights since being secretly launched in 1996. Nobody's saying where the flights took place, but the best guess is Area 51, the USAF's secret flight-test center in Nevada. The Bird's innovative features are sure to inform the design of next-generation stealth aircraft, but the plane itself, having served its purpose, is being retired&mdashwhich is why Boeing and the Air Force were willing to make it public today.

Powered by a single engine from a Citation business jet, the Bird of Prey is pure prototype, with a maximum speed of 300 mph and a maximum altitude of 20,000 feet. Its take-off characteristics were "normal, but in slow motion," according to test pilot Joe Felock. Though its primary mission was to demonstrate stealth technology, it also allowed Boeing's Phantom Works&mdashthe company's special-projects arm&mdashto demonstrate it could build prototype airplanes quickly and cheaply. The airplane was made from a small number of carbon fiber composite parts, and&mdashamazingly, in view of its shape&mdashhad a simple all-manual flight control system without a computer in sight.

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