The UCAV ("uninhabited combat air vehicle")
is a robot strike aircraft intended to deal with well-defended targets.
Boeing's X-45A is a stealthy tail-less aircraft, with composite outer structures and an aluminum internal structure,
though a production UCAV would be mostly made of composites. It has a midbody-mounted wing with a straight
leading edge and a sawtooth trailing edge.
The X-45A is powered by an Allied-Signal F124 turbofan with a rectangular thrust-vectoring exhaust that swivels in
the horizontal plane, helping to compensate for the aircraft's lack of a tail assembly. The engine is mounted in the
center of the fuselage. An operational design may have a different engine.
The X-45A has two weapons bays and can in principle carry up to 1,350 kilograms (3,000 pounds) of stores.
However, in practice, one of the weapons bays will be used to store a pallet of flight test systems.
The other weapons bay will be used to carry test stores, such as a single 450 kilogram (1,000 pound)
Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM) GPS-guided bomb, or a "multipurpose bomb rack" to allow it to carry a
wide range of smaller munitions, such as six 113 kilogram (250 pound) bombs, MALDs, and
Low-Cost Autonomous Attack System (LOCAAS) mini-cruise missiles.
The rack will allow reloading the X-45A with a new set of munitions in about a half hour.
The first demonstrator has been built to a "Block 1" standard, with a UHF control link and an L-band telemetry link. The second demonstrator
scheduled for first flight in late 2001, will be built to a "Block 2" standard, with an added UHF satellite communications link and a "Link 16"
fighter data link.
Boeing has implemented a ground control system for the X-45A based on a Silicon Graphics computer with conventional keyboard-mouse input
and two displays. One of the displays gives images from a video camera in the demonstrator's nose, while the other provides aircraft status and
control information. Much of the software for the X-45A has been "recycled" from other projects.
A container has been designed for the X-45A, and the UCAV's wings can be easily removed and refitted for storage and transport.
The container has dimensions of about 4.6 by 1.8 by 6.1 meters (15 by 6 by 20 feet) and is built from fiberglass, with a honeycomb core.
The container has several interface ports to allow maintenance checks to be performed on the stored vehicles, or to download flight plans.
The current idea is that 50 to 100 UCAVs will be stored at a depot, with all the containers hooked up to a central computing station to monitor their state.
A Lockheed C-5 airlifter will be able to carry twelve such UCAV containers, while a Boeing C-17 airlifter would be able to carry six.
The UCAV will have a twenty-year shelf life, one of the more unusual parameters for a combat aircraft design by traditional standards,
with removal for tests every five years.