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Exactly how the Black Hawk helicopters were modified is not completely known, but the photographs of the wreckage offer new clues to the military's cutting-edge methods. Several analysts agreed the aircraft used technology that appeared to stem from the Comanche, a $39 billion, joint project between Sikorsky and Boeing until it was scrapped in 2004 due to high costs. The tail rotor was modified with a dish covering part of the rotor to suppress noise and the tail section was modified to reduce it radar cross section. In addition, there was evidence of radar absorbing materials being used on the Black Hawks.
Also last week, Boeing announced that its Phantom Ray unmanned airborne system (UAS) successfully completed its first flight April 27 at NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif. This is a stealth unmanned platform which is obvious from its shape. The 17-minute flight took place following a series of high-speed taxi tests in March that validated ground guidance, navigation and control and verified mission planning, pilot interface and operational procedures. Phantom Ray flew to 7,500 feet and reached a speed of 178 knots.
The flight demonstrated Phantom Ray's basic airworthiness, setting the stage for additional flights in the next few weeks. These company-funded flights will prepare Phantom Ray to support potential missions that may include intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance; suppression of enemy air defenses; electronic attack; strike; and autonomous air refueling.
Stealth technology is being applied to most combat aircraft built in the US these days, so it is a pretty safe prediction that all future US combat aircraft will be built using stealth technology and might even be all unmanned going forward.
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