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Boeing Phantom Eye - United States, 2015


Detailing the development and operational history of the Boeing Phantom Eye High Altitude, Long Endurance (HALE) Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV).


 Entry last updated on 4/25/2016; Authored by Staff Writer; Content ¬©www.MilitaryFactory.com

  Boeing Phantom Eye  
Picture of Boeing Phantom Eye


The Phantom Eye will provide commanders with aerial reconnaissance for up to four straight days.







The Boeing Phantom Eye is a next generation UAV (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle). The most unique facet of the Phantom Eye is its use of a liquid hydrogen-based propulsion system which touts efficiency and range as its key qualities. Such a propulsion system means that there is no excessive engine exhaust or inherent fuel waste with water being the only thing outputted by the engines which, in essence, make the Phantom Eye a "green" minded UAV player (however, such fuel conversion technology remains expensive at the moment). Other UAV systems in this class largely make use of gasoline-fueled engines (Predator/Reaper) or, more recently, full turbofan engine technology (Global Hawk) to help advance UAV operational ranges and mission capabilities.

The Boeing Phantom Eye UAV is the product of Boeing "Phantom Works" whose work is similar in scope to the equally-secretive Lockheed "Skunk Works" facility of Lockheed Martin, the well-known makers of the F-117 Nighthawk stealth fighter of the 1980s. At this point, Boeing is entertaining various avenues for its Phantom Eye product - these being civilian and military in nature where the aircraft can be used to monitor a variety of changing situations on the ground over a lengthy period of time.

Recent American combat experience in both Afghanistan and Iraq have naturally brought about a set of new requirements for all branches of military service - this being the beneficial byproduct of any prolonged dynamic war endeavor. UAVs naturally began to play a greater role in US military operations since the start of the 2001 and 2003 invasions prompting newer and better solutions to fulfill the various battlefield needs, particularly concerning intelligence gathering form above, where satellites could, at times, prove limiting in their reach and manned observation flights were often not viable alternatives. UAVs promoted relatively quieter solutions as well as longer loitering times in which to spy on enemy activities, often times from miles away at altitude, delivering real-time information back to discerning eyes on the ground.

Boeing took to designing a earlier UAV form which was known as the "Condor" and this platform served as a valuable research drone first flying in 1988. After some 300 hours of data, the system was formally retired to the Hiller Aviation Museum of San Mateo, California with the Phantom Eye growing as an evolution of the Condor project. The initiative also involved other firms to include Aurora Flight Sciences, Ball Aerospace, Ford and MAHLE Powertrain, each bringing about a particular expertise needed in forging what would become the Phantom Eye UAV concept. As with other revolutionary UAV designs before it, the Phantom Eye - at least at this point - is not intended to be armed and maintains a core position as an airborne reconnaissance/surveillance system designed to spy on targets for lengthy periods of time. If the Phantom Eye program succeeds, it will have produced a UAV that is able to keep tabs on a particular situation for days on end. Should the program itself evolve into something more, it opens up the possibilities of UAVs being able stay airborne for weeks at a time, perhaps even months into the future.






The outward design of the Phantom Eye certainly does not exude any sort of "sexy" styling by any measure, its profile being dominated by its bulbous fuselage, thin wings of 150 feet span and stalk-like empennage. The Phantom Eye forgoes stealth characteristics in favor of pure range and altitude and its appearance is the byproduct of such a design initiative. The fuselage is essentially football in shape with the wide-spanning monoplane wings fitted high atop the body for maximum lift. The wings droop down noticeably with the vehicle at rest - but are seen canted upwards when in flight - and are supported by thin supporting struts located to the sides of the fuselage. The fuselage contours elegantly into the thin empennage which sports a single vertical tail fin and a pair of downwards-canted horizontal planes, completing the upside down "Y" arrangement of the tail fins. The Phantom Eye is propelled by a pair of engines housed streamlined nacelles, each sporting four-bladed propellers. The engines are Ford 2-liter, 4-cylinder systems, each developing 150 horsepower and allowing for speeds upwards of 170 miles per hour - essentially on par with some current helicopter models in service. Much to Boeing's delight, the engines successfully wrapped up testing in a controlled environment on March 1st, 2010. The next step was, therefore, to fit the powerplants into the complete Phantom Eye design.

Boeing claims that their unique Phantom Eye UAV will promote a four-day loiter time and reach altitudes in excess of 65,000 feet - atmosphere territory only until recently was reserved for jet-powered, manned aircraft. Its cargo hold is expected to net a payload carrying capacity of 450lbs to 500lbs.

It is perhaps Ford Motor Company's contribution to the Phantom Eye program that offers up her unique stance in the world of UAV products. The aircraft is fitted with a pair of engines that are also found in the civilian Ford Fusion line of automobiles. Unlike their combustible brethren, however, this version of the Fusion engine have been highly modified to take advantage of liquid-hydrogen propulsion technology, resulting in what seems to be a more economical UAV propulsion alternative.

The Phantom Eye was first unveiled for public consumption on July 12th, 2010 in a Boeing display at their St Louis, Missouri facility. Ground testing of the aircraft was expected to commence by the end of 2010 at the NASA Dryden Flight Research Center of Edwards Air Force Base in California. From there, Phantom Eye is scheduled for a first flight to be conducted sometime in 2011. Not one to sit on their laurels in the competitive UAV market, Boeing is also pursuing other UAV projects that include a larger version of the Phantom Eye slated to push the endurance boundary even further - by as much as 10 days according to sources, and carry an even larger internal payload of specialized equipment.

Technically, the Phantom Eye is referred to by Boeing as a "High Altitude, Long Endurance" (otherwise abbreviated to "H.A.L.E.") unmanned aerial vehicle. As Boeing looks to its future, the UAV market seems to play a major role in its sustainment on the modern battlefield and the Phantom Eye - or the technology garnered from its development - should power company shares for some time to come.

To those students of military aviation that recognize the potential of such revolutionary products as the Boeing Phantom Eye, this is a far cry from the "Scout" biplane air mounts utilized by the military forces of World War 1 to reconnoiter the enemy - these aircraft struggling just to exceeding 100 miles per hour with 15,000 foot service ceilings while sporting three hour endurance times less than 100 years ago.

In February of 2014, the Phantom Eye had its status revised by the USAF to experimental service with the 412th Operations Group.




Boeing Phantom Eye Specifications



Service Year: 2015
Type: High Altitude, Long Endurance (HALE) Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV)
National Origin: United States
Manufacturer(s): Boeing Company - USA
Total Production: 1


Structural (Crew, Dimensions, Weights)



Operating Crew (Typical): 0
Overall Width: 149.93 feet (45.70 meters)

Power / Performance (Engine Type, Top Speed)



Engine: 2 x Ford 2-liter, 4-cylinder liquid-hydrogen fueled engines delivering 150 horsepower each.

Maximum Speed: 81 knots (93 mph; 150 kph)
Service Ceiling: 65,000 feet (19,812 meters; 12.31 miles)

Armament / Mission Payload



None. 450lb payload currently consisting of advanced surviellance equipment.

Global Operators (Customers, Users)



United States

Model Variants



Phantom Eye - Base Series Designation


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