Boeing Aircraft

The Boeing Bird of Prey was a black project aircraft, intended to demonstrate stealth technology. It was developed by McDonnell Douglas and Boeing in the 1990s.

F-118 Bird of Prey

The Boeing Bird of Prey was a black project aircraft, intended to demonstrate stealth technology. It was developed by McDonnell Douglas and Boeing in the 1990s. The company provided $67 million of funding for the project; 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.

Development of the Bird of Prey began in 1992 by McDonnell Douglas's Phantom Works division for special projects, at Area 51. The aircraft's name is a reference to the Klingon Bird of Prey warship from the Star Trek television series. 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 flights were performed through the program's conclusion in 1999. The Bird of Prey was 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

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First of all, the design is meant for transsonic flight, but the development was privately funded by McDonnell-Douglas and had to keep cost down. As a consequence, the demonstrator aircraft used a 3000 lb thrust class engine (Pratt & Whitney Canada JT15D5C) which is used more in military trainers and business jets than in combat aircraft. This kept the aircraft's top speed and the aerodynamic forces low, which helped in keeping the systems simple and the structure small. A production aircraft would be much bigger and use a much more powerful engine.

Boeing Bird of Prey

Aircraft on display

The Bird of Prey was put on display at the National Museum of the United States Air Force at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base near Dayton, Ohio on July 16, 2003. It is now on display at the Museum's Modern Flight Gallery above their F-22 Raptor.


  • History

    Role Experimental stealth testbed

    Manufacturer McDonnell Douglas / Boeing

    First flight September 11, 1996

    Retired April 1999

    Status On display

    Number built 1

  • General Characteristics

    Crew: 1

    Length: 46 ft 8 in (14.22 m)

    Wingspan: 22 ft 8 in (6.91 m)

    Height: 9 ft 3 in (2.82 m)
    Powerplant: 1 × Pratt & Whitney Canada JT15D-5C , 3,190 lbf (14.2 kN)

  • Performance

    Maximum speed: 260 knots (299 mph, 482 km/h)

    Service ceiling: 20,000 ft (6,100 m)


Boeing Bird of Prey "The Switchblade"


Roughly half of the lift in level flight is produced by the forward fuselage. Wikipedia says it is the chines, but they only provoke the generation of a pair of vortices just like those on a delta wing, and the low pressure caused by the speeds of this vortex creates lift on the forward fuselage. In a way, the Bird of Prey is a canard aircraft.


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