Feeds

Robo stealth bomber piggybacks on NASA's shuttle jumbo

Desperate Boeing brings Phantom Ray show to California

Security for virtualized datacentres

Pic US arms'n'aerospace megacorp Boeing has now moved its Phantom Ray robot stealth fighter to Edwards Air Force Base in California for flight testing. The unmanned jet was shipped there on the back of one of NASA's well-known piggyback jumbo jets, more usually employed moving space shuttles about.

The Phantom Ray UAS piggybacked on NASA's Shuttle transporter 747. Credit: Boeing

You don't see this every day. Hires TIFF here (warning, 27.4 MB).

It's widely thought among major weapons firms such as Boeing that craft on the general lines of the Phantom Ray will be the next major step forward from the manned stealth jets – F-22 Raptor and F-35 Lightning II – now going into service with the US forces (and other Western air forces soon). Barring the appearance of working rayguns or something, there isn't really a lot more one could do to a combat jet to make it better now, except maybe removing the pilot.

This would mean that the aircraft could be happily sent into dangerous enemy air-defence networks without any risk of dead pilots, or – perhaps even worse – captured pilots triumphantly exhibited on TV. This would make the air defences themselves easier to destroy should this need to be done, and also eliminate any need for a major defence-suppression air campaign before any targets could be bombed.

Present-day unmanned aircraft mostly need to be remotely piloted constantly across a decent-bandwidth communications link. Those that don't still require a non-pilot operator to direct their actions, in particular the release of weapons. Very few of today's roboplanes have much chance of survival in hostile skies controlled by an enemy air force with any serious kit (though there is already, perhaps, an exception to this rule).

Thus it is that several American firms and the national weapons companies of the UK and France (allied with some other continental nations) are all working on things a lot like the Phantom Ray. These (the Northrop X-47B, General Atomics Avenger, British Taranis and French/European Neuron) are all fighter-sized planes intended to be able to mount a bombing mission largely autonomously – requiring no operator input to fly somewhere, deliver a weapon to a specified location, and fly back again. The lack of comms requirement and advanced stealth design should mean that such aircraft can have a decent chance of survival even against serious opposition – and their lack of a pilot means that they will have a decent chance of being sent in even if that chance of survival is not perfect.

Security for virtualized datacentres

Next page: Bootnote

More from The Register

next story
Boffins who stare at goats: I do believe they’re SHRINKING
Alpine chamois being squashed by global warming
What's that STINK? Rosetta probe shoves nose under comet's tail
Rotten eggs, horse dung and almonds – yuck
Comet Siding Spring revealed as flying molehill
Hiding from this space pimple isn't going to do humanity's reputation any good
Kip Thorne explains how he created the black hole for Interstellar
Movie special effects project spawns academic papers on gravitational lensing
Experts brand LOHAN's squeaky-clean box
Phytosanitary treatment renders Vulture 2 crate fit for export
LONG ARM of the SAUR: Brachially gifted dino bone conundrum solved
Deinocheirus mirificus was a bit of a knuckle dragger
Moment of truth for LOHAN's servos: Our US allies are poised for final test flight
Will Vulture 2 freeze at altitude? Edge Research Lab to find out
prev story

Whitepapers

Why cloud backup?
Combining the latest advancements in disk-based backup with secure, integrated, cloud technologies offer organizations fast and assured recovery of their critical enterprise data.
A strategic approach to identity relationship management
ForgeRock commissioned Forrester to evaluate companies’ IAM practices and requirements when it comes to customer-facing scenarios versus employee-facing ones.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
New hybrid storage solutions
Tackling data challenges through emerging hybrid storage solutions that enable optimum database performance whilst managing costs and increasingly large data stores.