Home' Defence Technology Review : DTR SEP 2014 Contents 17
DEFENCE TECHNOLOGY REVIEW | ISSUE 02 | SEP 2014
Boeing awarded contract for Phantom Swift X-plane
The US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency
(DARPA) has awarded Boeing a US$9.36 million contract
to continue development of its Phantom Swift X-plane
vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) experimental aircraft.
According to a US Department of Defense contract notice
on 26 August, the seven-month contract with 16-month
option period will enable Boeing to continue to refine its
design of the Phantom Swift, advancing it to a preliminary
design review (PDR) level. The majority of the work (75 per
cent) work will be performed at Boeing’s Ridley Park facility
Specific Boeing program activities are to include the
following milestones: system definition review, interim
progress review and PDR. These will be undertaken as part
of Phase 1B of the program.
In March this year under Phase 1, DARPA contracted
four companies – Aurora Flight Sciences, Boeing, Karem
and Sikorsky – to rapidly design technology demonstrator
aircraft with revolutionary VTOL flight capabilities.
The US$130 million VTOL X-plane program seeks to
develop an aircraft for the US military that can, through
innovative cross-pollination between fixed and rotary-wing
Rendering of the Boeing Phantom Swift X-plane concept.
FROM CONCEPT TO FLIGHT IN 30 DAYS
In 2013, Boeing’s Phantom Works division used rapid prototyping
and additive manufacturing techniques, such as three-dimensional
printing, to design, build and fly a sub-scale Phantom Swift concept
The scale model, 17 per cent the size of the full size aircraft, went
from design concept to a flying prototype in less than a month,
allowing it to serve as flying laboratory of sorts – all in time to meet
DARPA’s proposals deadline.
The actual time taken was less than 30 days: three days to design,
10 days to obtain parts and 14 days to build and fly.
“A picture is worth a thousand words, a flying model is worth a
million words,” Perry Ziegenbein, Phantom Swift chief engineer said
in a company statement.
“No matter what words you put in a proposal, having hardware you
can demonstrate that they [the customer] can tangibly see what’s
being proposed goes a long way toward winning that proposal.”
A PICTURE IS WORTH A THOUSAND
WORDS, A FLYING MODEL IS WORTH
A MILLION WORDS.
Phantom Swift chief engineer
The US Marine Corps is trialling a
compact battery charging device that
allows soldiers to recharge batteries
whilst on the move.
The Foot Mobile Charger (FMC)
is an attachable power source –
essentially a battery itself – that
connects to other batteries being
carried by the soldier and recharges
them throughout the day or night or
whenever the soldier is active, thereby
helping to distribute power within
a patrol to sustain communications
devices and other equipment.
This could extend the operational
endurance of a dismounted patrol
or maintain critical communications
for several days in the absence of
More suited to use during general
movement such as walking or patrolling
rather than hard charging assaults or
close quarter combat, the FMC can be
intertwined with an assault pack,
webbing or body armour.
Trials by the Marine Corps
Warfighting Laboratory have seen
the FMC being used to recharge in-
service batteries such as 152/153
radio batteries and BA-5590 and
BB-2590 batteries. A solar panel
attachment can be used to recharge
the FMC main battery during the
day, conditions permitting.
The FMC also has a USB adaptor
for connecting to other technology
devices carried by dismounted
– Matthew Mendenhall
The Foot Mobile Charger allows
on-the-move recharging of
in-service batteries. Images: USMC
INSET: A solar panel attachment
allows the FMC to recharge during
aviation technology, achieve high-performance vertical and
cruise flight capabilities.
“We were looking for different approaches to solve this
extremely challenging problem, and we got them,” said Ashish
Bagai, DARPA program manager. “The proposals we’ve
chosen aim to create new technologies and incorporate
existing ones that VTOL designs so far have not succeeded in
developing. We’re eager to see if the performers can integrate
their ideas into designs that could potentially achieve the
performance goals we’ve set.”
The VTOL X-plane seeks to develop a technology
demonstrator aircraft able to:
• Achieve a top sustained flight speed of 300-400kt;
• Raise aircraft hover efficiency from 60 per cent to at least
75 per cent;
• Present a more favorable cruise lift-to-drag ratio of at least
10, up from 5-6; and
• Carry a useful load of at least 40 per cent of the vehicle’s
projected gross weight of 10,000 -12,000lb (4,535-5,445kg)
DARPA in July performed conceptual design reviews of
the four VTOL X-Plane contenders. At press time it remained
unclear if the other three Phase 1 contracted companies had
also received Phase 1B contracts.
Boeing’s Phantom Swift concept employs ducted-fan
technology, with two large open-body lift fans housed in the
fuselage to provide primary vertical lift. Once the aircraft
transitions to cruise mode, the fans are covered and smaller
ducted tilt-fans on the wingtips rotate to provide forward thrust,
and also provide additional lift in the hover. Payloads would be
carried in cargo bays in the nose, mid-section and tail.
According to Boeing engineers, the combination of open-
body fans and tilt fans provides “incredible controllability” of
Production aircraft will be powered by an all-electric drive,
although the full-size technology demonstrator is to be
powered by a General Electric CT7-8 turboshaft engine.
At full size, Phantom Swift will measure 15.2m wingtip-to-
wingtip and 13.4m nose-to-tail.
The next major program milestone will involve the four
contracted companies submit PDRs in late 2015. One design
will be down selected to proceed to build stage, with flight
tests planned in the 2017-18 timeframe.
– Ian Bostock
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