Boeing-built High Altitude Long Endurance (HALE) unmanned combat air vehicle

The Boeing-built High Altitude Long Endurance (HALE) unmanned combat air vehicle (UCAV) Phantom Eye has completed its first medium-speed taxi test at Edwards Air Force Base in California, US.

During the taxi test, the air vehicle travelled atop its launching cart system and reached 4,000ft at speeds of up to 30k while ground teams relayed directions and information using Boeing’s advanced Common Open-mission Management Command and Control (COMC2) software.

The tests were conducted in close cooperation with NASA’s Dryden Flight Research Center.

Boeing Phantom Eye programme manager Drew Mallow said the test brings the company one step closer to the first flight of the UAV.

The aircraft’s first flight, expected to last eight hours, was originally scheduled to take place in early 2011.

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Additional taxi tests are yet to commence, including a high-speed test at 40k that will mark the end of testing before the UAV’s first flight, which is yet to be scheduled.

Developed by Boeing Phantom Words, Phantom Eye has been designed to support persistent intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, suppression of enemy air defences, electronic attack, strike and autonomous aerial refuelling missions.

The Phantom Eye is powered by two highly-efficient, 2.3lt, four-cylinder Ford Ranger truck engines that run on hydrogen and emit only water, which the company claims will make the aircraft economical to operate.

Featuring a wing-span of 150ft, the hydrogen-powered UAV will cruise at 150k, carry up to 450lb and stay aloft at 65,000ft for up to four days.

The aircraft will also be equipped with flight Woodward-HRT control actuation system, Crane Hydro-Aire brake controls and landing gear Heroux-Devtek in future.

Boeing has worked closely with Ball Aerospace, Aurora Flight Sciences, Ford Motor and MAHLE Powertrain to develop the Phantom Eye.

Image: Boeing’s Phantom Eye moves one step closer to its first flight. Photo: Boeing.