August 11, 2005 – Two Boeing Joint Unmanned Combat Air Systems (J-UCAS) X-45A unmanned aircraft successfully completed a graduation exercise when they flew their most challenging simulated combat mission to date earlier this week at NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center at Edwards Air Force Base in California. For test flights 63 and 64, the X-45As departed from the base, climbed to altitude, and autonomously used their on-board decision-making software to determine the best route of flight within the "area of action" or AOA. The pilot on the ground approved the plan and the two unmanned vehicles entered the AOA, a 30 by 60 mile area within the test range, ready to perform a simulated Preemptive Destruction-Suppression of Enemy Air Defenses mission. The mission involved identifying, attacking and destroying pre-identified ground-based radars and associated missile launchers before they could be used to launch surface-to-air missiles. During the test flight, the X-45A unmanned aircraft faced a simulated "pop-up" threat, used evasive maneuvers to avoid it, and autonomously determined which vehicle held the optimum position, weapons and fuel to attack the higher priority simulated target. Once the pilot authorized the attack, the unmanned aircraft simulated dropping weapons on the target. After engaging and destroying a second simulated target, the two X-45As completed their mission and safely returned to Edwards.
Other Images from this Gallery