Subscribe to our free daily newsletters
. Military Space News .

Subscribe to our free daily newsletters

Boeing Demonstrates UAV Automated Aerial Refueling Capability

File photo: A learjet flies under a KC-135R refueling tanker. Credit: Calspan Corporation.
by Staff Writers
St. Louis MO (SPX) Nov 28, 2006
The Boeing Automated Aerial Refueling (AAR) program successfully completed flight tests in August that demonstrated for the first time an unmanned air vehicle's ability to autonomously maintain a steady refueling station behind a tanker aircraft. "With autonomous air refueling capabilities, unmanned aircraft will have greater combat radius and loiter time," said David Riley, Boeing Phantom Works AAR program manager.

"This can enable a quicker response for time-critical targets and will reduce the need for forward-staging refueling areas. Another benefit is increased in-theater military presence with fewer military assets."

Boeing Phantom Works conducted the flight tests with the New York Air National Guard 107th Air Refueling Wing, which provided a KC-135R refueling tanker, and Calspan Corp., which provided a Learjet equipped with a special Boeing flight control system that allowed it to fly as an unmanned air vehicle. The flight tests integrate components on both the tanker and receiver aircraft to demonstrate that the receiver aircraft (the UAV) can autonomously hold position relative to the tanker while the tanker executes its standard air refueling maneuvers.

Six flights were conducted with the Boeing flight control system engaged, which enabled the Learjet to autonomously hold various positions in space -- contact, pre-contact or observation -- around the KC-135R. During a flight on Aug. 15, the Learjet was flown manually to the contact position behind the KC-135R -- the point from which Air Force aircraft receive fuel from a tanker's refueling boom. The aircraft's flight control system was then engaged, said Riley, and it autonomously held the contact position for 23 minutes while the tanker flew two full air refueling orbits, or holding patterns.

Two previous flight test efforts were conducted in August 2004 and September 2005 to evaluate the suitability of the Learjet behind a KC-135 and to take GPS measurements to determine positioning for future flights. As a prelude to the Station-Keeping Flight Test, some Learjet inner-loop flight control laws were tested.

The AAR flight test program will continue through 2007 to complete this phase of the program and ready the technology for transition to Air Force assets. Over the next year, the AAR team will build on the success of the station-keeping flight tests that will lead to new automated refueling capabilities.

In August 2007, the AAR team will demonstrate autonomous maneuvering around the tanker. The Learjet will engage the AAR system at the observation position on the tanker wing and will be directed from a control station to go to the pre-contact and contact positions upon approval from the tanker crew.

Phantom Works -- which built the AAR flight control computer, developed the station keeping control laws, and is conducting the flight tests -- is the advanced R and D unit of Boeing. Its charter is to provide innovative technology solutions that reduce the cycle time and cost of aerospace products and services while improving their quality and performance.

Related Links
UAV Technology at

Sagem Defense Securite To Conduct Study For DGA On Future Joint Tactical UAVs
Paris, France (SPX) Nov 27, 2006
The French defense procurement agency (DGA) has awarded Sagem Defense Securite (SAFRAN Group) a contract to conduct a joint Vertical Take Off and Landing (VTOL) UAV (DVI) study. It covers the definition study of a VTOL UAV that meets joint Army and Navy needs.

  • US Dominance Of Mideast Ends
  • A Gangster State
  • Fighting An Asymmetrical Chinese War Machine
  • Russia Prioritizes Strategic Forces On Security Agenda

  • North Korean Nuclear Talks Envoys Converge On Beijing
  • Protest At Top British Atomic Weapons Base As ICBM Renewal Looms
  • Iran Makes Concession To UN Nuclear Investigation
  • US Could Bomb Iran Nuclear Sites In 2007

  • Missiles, Missiles Everywhere
  • Raytheon HARM Variant Hits Target Without Radar Guidance
  • Northrop Grumman Expands Radar Role In Missile Testing
  • Pakistan Fires Nuclear-Capable Missile

  • Aegis Missile Defense Fleet Tops 80 Ships
  • India Says First Missile Intercept Test A Success
  • Israel Seeks New Technology To Shoot Down Rockets From Gaza
  • The Geopolitics Of Japan's BMD

  • DLR And EUROCONTROL Create Joint Total Airport Management Concept
  • Aviation Industry Alarmed At New EU Emission Rules
  • Technologies Evaluated For The Future National Airspace System
  • Silent Aircraft Readies For Take-Off

  • Boeing Demonstrates UAV Automated Aerial Refueling Capability
  • Sagem Defense Securite To Conduct Study For DGA On Future Joint Tactical UAVs
  • SkyLite B In Australia And New Zealand
  • EDO Wins Contract To Support Unmanned Aircraft

  • Enter The Saudis
  • Saddam Hussein Cannot Be Hanged Or Pardoned
  • An Iraq Exit Via Iran
  • Vietnam And Iraq - Two Different Views

  • Boeing Signs Contract For Korea's EX Airborne Early Warning And Control Program
  • Northrop Grumman Awarded Contract To Develop Shipboard Warning System
  • Boeing Awarded $296 Million JDAM Contract
  • The Mechanics Of Better Bullet Proofing

  • The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2006 - SpaceDaily.AFP and UPI Wire Stories are copyright Agence France-Presse and United Press International. ESA PortalReports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additionalcopyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. Advertising does not imply endorsement,agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by SpaceDaily on any Web page published or hosted by SpaceDaily. Privacy Statement