United States of America
- Combat Air Patrol
- Joint Unmanned Combat Air System
- National Aeronautics & Space Administration
- Unmanned Combat Aerial Vehicle
The Boeing company has announced that its X-45A unmanned combat aircraft
developed under the frame of the J-UCAS program successfully performed its first
simulated combat mission at NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center, Edwards Air
Force Base, California.
During the test conducted February 4 the X-45s demonstrated the capability of
flying a combat mission in a simulated scenario. This test marked the 50th
flight of the Boeing X-45A aircraft over the near three years of the program's
lifetime. During that time the X-45A demonstrated to be able to match the
challenge posed by pop-up threats that are common in warfare.
While Boeing is undergoing flight testing employing the X-45A aircraft, the
company continues to building the next generation enlarged X-45C aircraft which
is closer to the size and the performance of a real Unmanned Combat Aerial
Vehicle (UCAV) envisaged by the US military. X-45C will be affordable, more
survivable and will destroy enemy targets quickly than current systems thanks to
its loitering capability despite being a subsonic aircraft.
X-45As were involved in the 50th flight test, known as Peacekeeper, departing
from Edwards and climbing to altitudes of 24,500 feet (7,470 meters) and 25,500
feet (7,770 meters) respectively. Separated by approximately 25 miles (45 km)
and operating at .65 Mach (225 knots or 770 km per hour) the two aircraft
conducted a combat air patrol (CAP) over the test range. Their mission was to
neutralize two ground targets simulating air defenses.
The X-45As were alerted of the two threats in their patrol are and automatically
they determined which aircraft was in the optimum position to engage the threat.
Then the X-45A with optimal fuel and weapons load headed to the target area and
the remote operator allowed it to attack the simulated ground-based radar.
Subsequently to the first threat destruction, the second simulated threat
emerged and the second X-45A was assigned to engage and destroy it. With the two
targets destroyed, the two X-45As returned to Edwards Air Force Base.
A critical element for the X-45A vehicle is the software which underwent more
than 2,800 hours of testing prior to being cleared for use during Peacekeeper
mission. The software was flight tested on a T-33 X-45A surrogate aircraft
before integration on a true X-45A. This test demonstrates that the J-UCAS
program is moving forward as planned and will deliver unprecedented capabilities
to the US warfighters in the next decade.
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