Video: Stealthy UAV Hitches A Ride on 747

Check out this video of Boeing’s Phantom Ray stealth UAV being shipped to Edwards Air Force Base in California aboard the old 747-based Space Shuttle Transporter.

Now that NASA has little need for the shuttle-carrying jet, Boeing persuaded the space agency to modify the plane to carry its stealth drone from St. Louis, Mo., to California. The Chicago-based company expects the drone to take its first flight early this year.

The Phantom Ray is part of Boeing’s internally-funded effort to develop stealthy, combat UAVs. It piggybacks on the company’s old X-45 offering for the Navy’s competition to develop an unmanned combat air system. That plane lost the Navy contest to Northrop’s X-47.

  • mike

    back at you China

    • Brian Black

      It’s not very stealthy carrying that 747 beneath it!

    • Alberto

      If it had been the Iranians making this announcement, it would be along the lines of “Iranian Stealth Plane can lift a 747”

  • Darren

    Intersting that they chose to transport it on the the back of a 747 when they could have done it in the belly of a galaxy?

    • tomatojuice

      You can kind of see how it flies, personally id like to see it ontop of a 747 then inside a galaxy.

    • Thunder350

      With the space shuttling being retired with no replacement in sight, making us pay the Russians for any future space mission for the next 10 years, we miles well reuse the equipment that isn’t going to be used anymore instead of letting it sit and rust away.

      Thank you Bush/Obama.

      Now I want to know why that 747 was being escorted, were they expecting the Mexican/Canadian air force to come in and shoot it down? Waste of money on fuel and maintenance.

      As for a stealthy combat UAV. I hope we can start fielding alot of them soon. Hopefully ones that can be mass produced off the assembly line, and cut all the useless fighter pilots. Saving billions, but greatly increasing our capabilities. I’m sure the chair force will have a hissy fit when they wake up one morning and see the future.

      Ofcourse we still need to solve that pesky problem of cyber warfare. Don’t want China hacking into our systems and taking control of those drones and using them against us. They already have the first step completed, as their deeper into our government computers then the government is in our pockets!

      • Mastro

        It was probably being escorted so that it could be filmed in flight- its effectively a test flight.

        **When/if it crashed they could point to the film and say- “Hey -look at that!”

      • I’mNotAsSmartAsYou

        If they made a wheels-up landing they would have saved on rubber usage too. Of course, if someone sabotaged it, some smartass like you would have asked why they didn’t protect it.

        • Thunder350

          If someone did sabotage it, those escorts wouldn’t be able to do **** but watch the plane crash. Unless we secretly installed tractor beams on them.

      • George Jacobs

        Those wasn’t a fighter, it was a jet trainer. It was there as a safety observer. If the UAV started having issues (flutter, fittings coming loose), the observer is there to alert the 747 crew.

        • Thunder350

          Thank you for a serious response to a serious question. But not sure what the crew would of done to fix any issues with the UAV. Not like they can climb outside and tie it down better. =P

          • Robert

            No, but they can slow down. Dropping the airspeed might prevent damage or a crash if the chase crew notices problems. They can also put that beast on the ground.

      • Ben

        My computer science degree says… “HACKING DOES NOT WORK THAT WAY!”

        To gain control of a system like this would require physical access to the computers sending or receiving the commands.
        The only realistic way for a spy to do that would first require them to steal or copy a complete set of the control equipment, and then selectively disrupt the command center controlling the UAVs without also disrupting their own fake commands.

        Occam’s razor agrees that the simpler solution would be to just jam the receivers on the UAVs. This would force the UAVs to run on auto-pilot, effectively preventing them from being used offensively.

        The counter to this, is for the UAV designers to include the ability to fly the entire mission profile including weapon release without input, in the same way that the recon UAVs can.

        • Michael

          “The counter to this, is for the UAV designers to include the ability to fly the entire mission profile including weapon release without input, ……”
          Enter SkyNet! And the rest is history / the future. ;-)

          • blight

            Why do more people remember Skynet than Asimov’s three laws (plus a zeroth) of robotics?

          • Joe Schmoe


  • AFRet05

    The commentary was wrong. The 747 was the payload for the drone to carry! That would freak out some folks!

  • shawn1999

    Hmm, did you see the credits at the end? Boeing Creative Services? Maybe they just created this in response to the imaginary Chinese stealth fighter “Just because you see it, doesn’t mean it works they way they claim it does”. And LOL to those suggesting the drone carries the 747- hilarious!

    But seriously- for those that think drones will replace human-manned fighters- get real. The drones, even when remote piloted by a human, doesn’t have the presence of a human manned fighter- that video screen doesn’t give 360 view like a pilot’s head. I believe, at this time, the most ‘combat’ drones are capable of is supplementing/replacing the fighter bombers (the aircraft used for fast, precision targets). Really now- why are they ‘fighter bombers’ instead of just calling them fast bombers or light bombers? Anyway….

  • Maxtrue


    The climate near front lines will be DEW lethal. A JSF drone does not have the payload to thrust problems of its cousin the F-35B. It also can withstand more microwave than a pilot. A secure data link could make these vertical take-ff drones far more effective from small decks and tight positions. Money saved on the F-35B can be directed towards a drone.

    Drones have advantages no doubt. A robust fleet of X-47bs is more disconcerting to the Chinese than ten more Raptors. However, if China or others seek stealthy delivery systems designed to terminate carrier based assets, then smart missiles must be launched from further out (drones). Or carriers can divert energy to future rail and laser canons.

    It might be a mistake however to minimize the advantages of manned penetration of adversarial air space. One role may in fact be the escort of a manned stealth bomber. Or to meet incoming force without giving way location.

    Also the mission defines the drone I guess. A high altitude drone could serve recon as well as a platform for kinetic weapons. Hypersonic drones could out run current defensive technology. Stealth drone jammers and low-altitude recon require other attributes. This all is certainly expensive stuff the cost of which must be weighed against the balance.

    The Chinese hope they can reproduce what we make far more cheaply. This State control set-up masks the real Chinese investment. However, that strategy doesn’t really work like that the higher up the high tech you get. So they must steal and hope we run out of money. Slow the money and brain drain here and we could turn things around rather quickly…..

    That seems everyone’s fear…….

  • John B

    A good illustration of where the budget cut would be doing something completely wasteful and useless like that.

  • Maxtrue…

    As others have mentioned, this might scare the Chinese……. and others