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Boeing Phanton Swift selected for DARPA's VTOL X-plane project


The Phantom Swift prototype. A Boeing photo

ST. LOUIS (BNS): The Defence Advanced Research Project Agency (DARPA) has selected Boeing-designed Phantom Swift as one of the contenders for its Vertical Takeoff and Landing (VTOL) X-plane programme.

The defence research agency last week announced the selection of four US companies -- Aurora Flight Sciences Corporation, The Boeing Company, Karem Aircraft Inc., and Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation -- for Phase 1 of the VTOL X-Plane project.

The programme seeks to develop a new-generation VTOL aircraft configuration capable of both efficient hover and high-speed cruise.

The new revolutionary plane, according to DARPA, should achieve a top sustained flight speed of 300 kt-400 kt. Its hover efficiency should be raised from 60 percent to at least 75 percent. The aircraft should also have a more favourable cruise lift-to-drag ratio of at least 10, up from 5-6 and could carry a useful load of at least 40 percent of the vehicle's projected gross weight of 10,000-12,000 pounds.

Through a $17 million agreement with DARPA's Tactical Technology Office, Boeing intends to continue developing its technology for an aircraft that takes off and lands vertically, hovers and efficiently flies at speeds up to 400 knots.

"Proving these capabilities in a single aircraft has been the holy grail for tactical military aviation," said Dan Newman, Boeing Phantom Works Advanced Vertical Lift capture team lead. "We're confident that Phantom Swift could be the solution."

The Phantom Swift prototype features two large lift fans -- inside the fuselage -- that provide efficient vertical lift. Once the aircraft transitions to cruise mode, the fans are covered.

The airplane also features smaller ducted fans on the wingtips that provide forward thrust, and provide additional lift and control in hover.

Last year, Boeing Phantom Works used rapid prototyping and additive manufacturing techniques, such as 3-dimensional printing, to quickly design, build and fly a scaled-down Phantom Swift.

The next major milestone for VTOL X-Plane is scheduled for late 2015, when the four selected companies are required to submit preliminary designs.

At that point, DARPA plans to review the designs to decide which to build as a technology demonstrator, with the goal of performing flight tests in the 2017-18 timeframe.

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