Unmanned Air Combat X-45C to get Autonomous Aerial Refueling capabilities
By Mike Hanlon
July 11, 2005
July 12, 2005 The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has awarded Boeing an additional US$175 million to continue the X-45C portion of the Joint Unmanned Combat Air Systems (J-UCAS) Capability Demonstration Program, adding a full demonstration of a new Autonomous Aerial Refueling technology and culminating in an in-flight X-45C refueling by a KC-135 tanker in 2010. By adding autonomous refuelling to the X-45’s already scary capabilities , the United States will be able to provide “an even longer sustained, lethal presence in hostile airspace holding enemy forces open to immediate surveillance or destruction."
"With autonomous refueling, the X-45C provides an even longer sustained, lethal presence in hostile airspace holding enemy forces open to immediate surveillance or destruction," said David Koopersmith, Boeing J-UCAS X-45 vice president and program manager. "The Boeing X-45C will effectively and affordably fill critical gaps in key Air Force and Navy mission areas."
Boeing previously received $767 million from DARPA in October 2004 to build and flight test three X-45C air vehicles, two mission control elements, and integrate the J-UCAS Common Operating System. The first X-45C will be completed in 2006, with flight-testing scheduled to begin in 2007. Since Boeing began the J-UCAS Advanced Technology Demonstration Program, two X-45A's have flown 55 test missions at NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center, Edwards Air Force Base, Calif.
Winner of a 2005 Flight International Aerospace Industry Award, the J-UCAS X-45 program is a DARPA/U.S. Air Force/U.S. Navy/Boeing effort to demonstrate the technical feasibility, military utility and operational value of an unmanned air combat system for the Navy and Air Force. Operational missions for the services may include persistent strike; penetrating electronic attack; suppression of enemy air defenses; and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance.