A few lucky travelers passing through Lambert International Airport in St. Louis Dec. 13 may have caught a glimpse of aviation history in the making — and of military aviation’s future — when Boeing’s Phantom Ray unmanned airborne system hitched a ride on NASA’s Shuttle Carrier Aircraft.
The flight was a test to check the in-flight performance of the SCA while flying with the Phantom Ray and a special adapter before making the much longer trek to California for test flights at Dryden Flight Research Center at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif. And it marked the first time in 33 years the SCA had flown carrying an aircraft other than the Space Shuttle Orbiter. The fighter jet-sized Phantom Ray, designed and built by Boeing’s Phantom Works and funded entirely by Boeing, is a prototype that will be used as a test bed for advanced technologies ranging from intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance to suppression of enemy air defenses.
The verdict: thumbs-up. The next day, the SCA and the Phantom Ray completed the 1,800-mile journey to Edwards. This pic was taken the day before: