Boeing tests unmanned fighter

Flown at the NASA Dryden Flight Research Center at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., the X-45A reached an airspeed of 195 knots during its 14-minute test flight.

Boeing Co. photo

The Boeing Co. successfully flew its unmanned combat aircraft in late May, sending the plane to 7,500 feet as the Chicago-based company demonstrated the command and control link between the craft and a ground station.

Flown at the NASA Dryden Flight Research Center at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., the X-45A reached an airspeed of 195 knots during its 14-minute test flight.

The X-45A development work is being funded by a 1999, $131 million cost-sharing agreement between Boeing and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.

The military is showing greater interest in unmanned air vehicles, which are smaller and lighter than manned aircraft. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has allotted about $1 billion to UAV development programs in the fiscal 2003 defense budget request.

The military has about 200 UAVs in use today and plans to have 500 in use by 2007. The Air Force's Predator and Global Hawk models have been deployed in Afghanistan, mostly for reconnaissance, although some of the Predators have been retrofitted with Hellfire missiles.

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