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calendar   Friday - October 29, 2010

Out of the Black and Into the Blue

Cloaking Device Not Included



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This is a one of a kind test aircraft made by Boeing called the Bird Of Prey. Once upon a time it was the blackest of black projects, but it was declassified and shown to the public back in 2002. It was built with as many off the shelf parts as possible to keep the project cost down $67 million. It could neither fly high nor fast, and was a handful to land. And it seemed to generate UFO reports whenever it flew. I wonder why?


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From a 2002 news release: Named after a Klingon spacecraft in “Star Trek,” The Boeing Co. yesterday took the wraps off what was once one of its most classified “black” military airplane projects known as the “Bird of Prey.”

The Bird of Prey plane is 47 feet long with a distinctive 23-foot wing at the rear shaped like a “W.” The Boeing project ran from 1992 through 1999.  The plane, which looks like something that should be flying—and probably once did—at the super-secret Area 51 Nevada test range, helped Boeing pioneer stealth technology and new and more-affordable ways to design and build airplanes. The classified project ran from 1992 through 1999, and Boeing said it decided to make the aircraft public because the technologies that were demonstrated have become industry standards.

“With this aircraft we changed the rules on how to design and build an aircraft, and what we’ve learned is enabling us to provide our customers with affordable, high-performing products,” said Jim Albaugh, president and chief executive of Boeing’s Integrated Defense Systems.

It was developed by the McDonnell Douglas Phantom Works organization, where many black, or secret, projects for the military ended up, just as they did at the famed Lockheed Martin Skunk Works.


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The plane now lives at the USAF museum in Dayton Ohio, right above a B-2 stealth bomber



The Bird of Prey incorporated a variety of stealth features to minimize radar, infrared, visual and acoustic signatures. The overall shape of the low profile, tailless, blended fuselage with sharply cranked aft-set wings contributed to an extremely low radar cross-section. Flexible covers concealed gaps between fixed structures and moveable control surfaces. Designers were careful to ensure edge alignment on the canopy, landing gear doors, wings and fuselage to minimize radar backscatter. To eliminate radar reflections from the engine compressor face, the powerplant was buried deep in the fuselage and hidden behind the canopy and a curved inlet duct. The engine exhaust mitigated the airplane’s acoustic signature. A paint scheme consisting of several shades of gray reduced the visual contrast of shadows from various parts of the airplane. All of these features would contribute significantly to the survivability of an operational combat airplane.

As the team learned the lessons of each flight, the test program proceeded at a leisurely pace. Only 38 missions were flown between September 1996 and April 1999, roughly one sortie per month.

A video is here.

Funny thing though ... all the articles out there keep saying the aircraft was built to pioneer stealth technology. In 1992. Even though the F-117 and B-2 stealth aircraft had been in the field since the early 80s, which means they’ve been around since probably the early 70s. So what’s the point of “pioneering” it in the early 90s? Well, take your pick:

a) it was pioneering work for Boeing, because the other stealth planes were built by Lockheed/Martin/Marietta and Northrop Grumman. So when Boeing bought out McDonnell/Douglas, who had started the project, they actually had no stealth experience themselves, so this was a prove-we-can-do-it project ... or

b) the real purpose of the project is still deep in the black. They only tell us it was a stealth demonstrator and a low performance flying testbed. Was this an early Aurora prototype? The truth really isn’t out there; we will never know for sure.


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Posted by Drew458   United States  on 10/29/2010 at 08:13 AM   
Filed Under: • High TechHistoryplanes, trains, tanks, ships, machines, automobiles •  
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