Feeds

Robo stealth bomber piggybacks on NASA's shuttle jumbo

Desperate Boeing brings Phantom Ray show to California

High performance access to file storage

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.

High performance access to file storage

Next page: Bootnote

More from The Register

next story
Elon Musk's LEAKY THRUSTER gas stalls Space Station supply run
Helium seeps from Falcon 9 first stage, delays new legs for NASA robonaut
Red-faced LOHAN team 'fesses up in blown SPEARS fuse fiasco
Standing in the corner, big pointy 'D' hats
KILLER SPONGES menacing California coastline
Surfers are safe, crustaceans less so
LOHAN's Punch and Judy show relaunches Thursday
Weather looking good for second pop at test flights
Discovery time for 200m WONDER MATERIALS shaved from 4 MILLENNIA... to 4 years
Alloy, Alloy: Boffins in speed-classification breakthrough
Curiosity finds not-very-Australian-shaped rock on Mars
File under 'messianic pastries' and move on, people
Top Secret US payload launched into space successfully
Clandestine NRO spacecraft sets off on its unknown mission
Get your MOON GEAR: Auction to feature Space Race memorabilia
Keepsakes from early NASA, Soviet programs up for bids
New FEMTO-MOON sighted BIRTHING from Saturn's RING
Icy 'Peggy' looks to be leaving the outer rings
prev story

Whitepapers

Securing web applications made simple and scalable
In this whitepaper learn how automated security testing can provide a simple and scalable way to protect your web applications.
Five 3D headsets to be won!
We were so impressed by the Durovis Dive headset we’ve asked the company to give some away to Reg readers.
HP ArcSight ESM solution helps Finansbank
Based on their experience using HP ArcSight Enterprise Security Manager for IT security operations, Finansbank moved to HP ArcSight ESM for fraud management.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Mobile application security study
Download this report to see the alarming realities regarding the sheer number of applications vulnerable to attack, as well as the most common and easily addressable vulnerability errors.