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The Shuttle Carrier Aircraft gets a new gig

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Okay, it's not enough to keep them flying another 20 years, but at least it's *something* other than the Shuttle. Boeing has contracted with NASA to have an SCA ferry the Phantom Ray UCAV from their plant in St Louis, MO to Edwards AFB for testing. This article has a nice picture. That's a fairly big UCAV, but it's still smaller than the 747's tailplane.


I imagine the handling characteristics will be much easier than with an Orbiter attached -- no vertical stabilizer, for one thing. The artist's impression in the article above depicts the Phantom Ray sitting on top of the rear attach struts; the forward attach strut is not needed, as the UCAV is much smaller than the Orbiter.


I'm a little surprised that Boeing thought that this would be cheaper than simply taking the wing off and shipping it in pieces, unless the wings happen to be monolithic and not separable from the completed aircraft.

Alternatively, I am wondering if it would fit in a C-5 sideways on casters. ..ie slide the right wing in first with the nose pointing into the side of the cargo plane. It is difficult to get a scale of the UAV from the picture, so it may be too large to fit inside of a C-5, but almost anything has to be cheaper than renting a Shuttle Carrier Aircraft.


It al started with the DARPA J-UCAS project about eight years ago. As a participant, Boeing developed the X-45. Interestingly, one path was to be able to break the drone down and store and transport it in a container.

But the Air Force changed their minds and withdrew from supporting this effort in 2006, and the program lost a lot of steam.

Boeing developed the X-45c, named the "Phanton Ray". It is a private effort and not even not aimed at any particular program or competition.

So here we have an UAV originally designed to be broken down to fit into containers, on a private venture by Boeing in an effort to capture some kind of money in some kind of program. Can you spell "publicity stunt"?
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