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  • Phantom Eye Plans
    Posted by Bill Sweetman 12:18 PM on Jun 28, 2010

    A Boeing presentation gives some new details on the company's Phantom Eye ultra-long-endurance UAV and its role in ballistic missile defense.

    The operational vehicle will have a 250-foot wingspan (100 feet more than the demonstrator) and a take-off gross weight of more than  14,000 pounds - that's a bit less than half the weight of the Global Hawk. It's the first Boeing airplane with wire-braced wings since the last P-26 was delivered in 1936.

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    It will retain the demonstrator's basic propulsion technology, with hydrogen fuelled internal combustion engines (the demonstrator's engines use Ford Fusion hardware), kept on high-altitude life support by multi-stage turbocharging. (Boeing's Condor, 20 years ago, used similar technology but with standard aviation fuel.)

    Endurance at 65,000 feet with a 610 lb payload (not including 500 pounds of communications equipment is more than ten days, and better at lower altitude. Operationally, a useful feature of a very long endurance vehicle is that, even with a low cruising speed, it's possible to base it a long way from any conflict, which is just as well given that there are not many 250-foot-wide hardened shelters.

    The payload mass is very specific, by the way, and suggests that Boeing has some clear ideas about sensors for a BMD role. High-performance, large-aperture, multiband infrared is the way to go, with the 65,000 foot altitude providing a long horizon range. The airborne infrared concept involves using two airborne platforms, triangulating for a high-accuracy track on the ascending missile.

    In the long run, Boeing and the Missile Defense Agency see airborne infrared as a gapfiller system until a complete constellation of small BMD warning satellites can be launched and maintained in the 2020s.

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    Finally, for all of those who were asking how ascent phase intercept worked, in the comments to last week's post on SM-3 Block IIB, here is a chart from this useful presentation:

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    Tags: ar99, bmd, boeing

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