This exclusive first picture of the only Boeing X-45C built, shows its 49.5-foot wingspan and a number of antennas on its wings and fuselage. The very low observable design was built for penetrating heavy air defense to get to precision-bombed, high-value targets.
The Air Force part of the program was canceled so the project was shifted to an all-Navy version, the X-45N, which would be capable of landing autonomously on aircraft carriers. (See more details in the June 4 edition of Aviation Week & Space Technology.)
The Navy wants to strike targets at ranges as great as 1,000 nautical miles while the aircraft carrier is stationed at a safe distance. Moreover, the service wants the long-range, unmanned combat aircraft on its decks by 2025.
Visually, the X-45N will look much like a larger version of the X-45C. Internally it has been redesigned to hold up under carrier operations, as well as to carry larger weapons and a battery of forward-looking sensors for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance in a bulged belly bay.
It is one of two contenders, along with Northrop Grumman's proposal, for the Navy's Unmanned Combat Air System – Demonstrator (UCAS-D). Initial requirements call for 1,200-1,500 nautical mile range, with 2-3 hours on station, and a low-observable design.
Air Force sources believe the aircraft design would expand its stealth capability to cover low-frequency radars, along with the classic high-frequency ranges used by advanced air defense radars such as the SA-10, SA-20 (with a 300 kilometer range) and SA-22 (about 450 kilometers). (AW&ST, April 30, p.26). The SA-21 is thought to be a 400 kilometer variant, while the SA-X-23 is an advanced shoulder fired anti-aircraft missile.