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Bird of Prey
Role Stealth testbed
Manufacturer McDonnell Douglas / Boeing
First flight 1996
Retired 1999
Status Experimental
Number built 1

The Bird of Prey was a black project aircraft, intended to demonstrate stealth technology. It was developed by McDonnell Douglas and Boeing in the 1990s.[1] Funded by the company at a price of $67 million,[1] it was a low cost program compared to many other programs of similar scale. It developed technology and materials which would later be used on Boeing's X-45 unmanned combat air vehicle. As an internal project, this aircraft was not given an X-plane designation. There are no public plans to make this a production aircraft. It is characterized as a technology demonstrator.


Design and development

Development of the Bird of Prey began in 1992 by McDonnell Douglas's Phantom Works division for special projects. The aircraft's name is a reference to the Klingon Bird of Prey warship from the Star Trek television series.[2] Phantom Works later became part of Boeing Integrated Defense Systems after the Boeing–McDonnell Douglas merger in 1997.

The first flight was in 1996, and 39 more were performed through the program's conclusion in 1999.[1] The Bird of Prey is designed to prevent shadows and is believed to have been used to test active camouflage, which would involve its surfaces changing color or luminosity to match the surroundings.[3]

Because it was a demonstration aircraft, the Bird of Prey used a commercial off-the-shelf turbofan engine and manual hydraulic controls rather than fly-by-wire. This shortened the development time and reduced the cost significantly (a production aircraft would have computerized controls).

Bird of Prey exhibit at the National Museum of the United States Air Force

The shape is aerodynamically stable enough to be flown without computer correction. Its aerodynamic stability is due to the same mechanisms found in canard aircraft such as the VariEze, the lift normally generated by the canards being provided by the chines (which therefore keeps the nose from sinking). This configuration, which can be stable without a horizontal tailplane and a conventional vertical rudder, is now a standard in modern stealth unmanned aerial vehicles such as the X-45 and X-47, tailless aircraft which use drag rudders (asymmetrically-used wingtip airbrakes) for rudder control.

Aircraft on display


General characteristics


See also

Bird of Prey project patch. Note that the shape of the sword's hilt closely resembles the airframe of the Bird of Prey aircraft.

Related development

Comparable aircraft


  1. ^ a b c d "Boeing Unveils Bird of Prey Stealth Technology Demonstrator". Boeing, October 18, 2002.
  2. ^ USAF Museum literature
  3. ^ "Now you see it, now you won't: Boeing lifts the veil on stealthy Bird of Prey". Jane's International Defence Review, December 2, 2002. (non-subscription version)

External links

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