Boeing's Phantom Works has won the US Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) contract to demonstrate an unmanned combat air vehicle (UCAV) designed for strike and defence-suppression missions.

The company has received a 42-month, $131 million cost-sharing contract to build and test a UCAV demonstrator system. Two tail-less, stealthy air vehicles, capable of carrying miniature precision-guided munitions, will be flight tested in 2002. DARPA and the US Air Force will provide $110 million and Boeing the rest.

In December, the Phantom Works won a cost-sharing NASA contract to build the X-37 Future X Pathfinder technology demonstrator for a reusable spaceplane. The division is also building two unmanned, subscale demonstrators of its canard rotor/wing (CR/W) vertical take-off and landing aircraft concept under a cost-sharing contract with DARPA.

Boeing's UCAV design will draw heavily on its X-36 unmanned, subscale tail-less fighter technology demonstrator. Two X-36s built by the St Louis-based Phantom Works are being used to test advanced flight control technologies. While design of the UCAVs will be led by St Louis, the Phantom Works' Seattle location will be responsible for the mission control system and overall programme management.

The DARPA advanced technology demonstration is intended to determine whether UCAVs will be capable of supporting manned strike aircraft in a post-2010 time frame.

Source: Flight International