Initial Operational Capability (IOC):
Also Known As: J-UCAS, Phantom Ray, X-45A and X-45CN
Origin: United States of America
Parent System: J-UCAS
Initial Operational Capability (IOC):
4 February 2011
Family Members: X-47B
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Description: The J-UCAS (Joint Unmanned Combat Air System), also known as the J-UCAV, evolved from the US Navy and US Air Force requirements for unmanned combat aircraft capable of performing strike missions and suppression of enemy air defenses (SEAD) without risking a pilot. The J-UCAS is the result of the union between the UCAV (USAF) and the UCAV-N (US Navy) programs paving the way for a highly promising joint services program. The Boeing and Northrop-Grumman corporations are working on the X-45C and the X-47B (X-45CN and X-47BN aircraft carrier enabled Navy designations) prototypes respectively in order to achieve the US Air Force and US Navy objectives and the J-UCAS program goals. The scope of the program is to field a single combat system to meet the requirements of both services, but the possibility to field two systems for each one of the services is still under consideration.
The J-UCAS objectives are airfield/land and aircraft carrier-based UAVs, a combat radius of 1,300-1,500 nm with a full payload of 4,500 pounds inside a large weapons bay, and a loitering capability for 2 hours over a target area 1,000 nm away from the operating base. It will perform missions such as suppression of enemy air defenses (SEAD), deep strike, electronic attack, and Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR). Air refueling capability is also under consideration to conduct extended endurance and/or range missions. It is expected that a single J-UCAS pilot-operator will be able to operate up to four UAVs flying in closer formations. The collaborative mission execution capability will allow J-UCAS connected each other or with the Global Information Grid to successful operate in high threat environments deep inside enemy battlespace. Therefore, a very stealthy airframe, beyond-line-of-sight communications, and an enhanced electronic warfare capacity will be required to do so.
The Boeing X-45C is 39 feet long (11.9 meters) with a 49-foot (15 meters) wingspan and is expected to take to the air in mid-2006. This UAV will cruise at 0.85 Mach carrying a 4,500-lb (2,000 kg) payload at 40,000-ft (12,000 meters) of altitude with a mission radius of 1,300 nm (2,400 km). It evolved from Boeing's X-45A UCAV technology demonstrator which was smaller than the X-45C. The US Air Force program was cancelled in 2006.
On August 1, 2004, two Boeing X-45A unmanned combat vehicle demonstrators flew a multi-vehicle control flight the first time ever at Edwards Air Force Base, California. A single pilot-operator was able to monitor both aircraft while executing the same mission plan with a lateral separation of more than one mile. Its four-dimensional navigation system and software enhancements made possible this to happen with reduced workload for the pilot-operator. On October 12, 2004, Boeing received $767 million in funds from DARPA for modification of a previously awarded other transaction for prototypes agreement valued at $291 million. The modification contract calls to design, develop, and demonstrate three full-scale X-45C air vehicles, two mission control elements and integration with the Common Operating System (COS).
The X-45C first flight is expected in spring 2007 with the modification contract work scheduled for completion in March 2010. The US Air Force and US Navy will use the X-45C prototypes to demonstrate key capabilities of the J-UCAS air systems program such as network-centric operations, global strike, aircraft carrier operations, suppression of enemy air defenses (SEAD), ISR, operational assessment, etc. In November 2004, Boeing received the first F404 engine to power the X-45C unmanned aerial vehicle. Each of the X-45C aircraft will be powered by a single F404 engine, exact model was not disclosed.
Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, Boeing and Northrop-Grumman established a consortium to develop the J-UCAS Common Operating System (COS) by signing the Articles of Collaboration with DARPA on February 14, 2005. COS' open, non-proprietary architecture operationally flexible and affordable capable of supporting J-UCAS and future programs. This cooperative framework will allow small developers and other defense contractors to contribute COS in the future. Developing the COS independently of the air vehicle and other related items will result in cost and time savings and improved performance.
On March 16, 2005, the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) aired a collaborative program which began in December 2004 and is expected to conclude in July 2009. The program aim is to determine the military benefit of Unmanned Combat Air Systems within coalition operations. J-UCAS will be involved in this initiative that will be conducted at both United States of America and United Kingdom locations. The program will culminate with live and virtual flights operating in a coalition networked warfare scenario.
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