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Boeing Competes to Build Pentagon's Next Military Breakthrough

The Defense Department has chosen one of Boeing’s aircraft concepts as a candidate for its Vertical Takeoff and Landing X-plane program.

The company's St. Louis-based defense branch is competing to develop an aircraft that takes off and lands vertically, hovers and efficiently flies at speeds up to 400 knots, said Garrett Kasper, a communications representative for advanced Boeing military aircraft.

"It looks more like a flying surfboard..."

“Designing and developing aircraft to hover efficiently and fly at 400 knots hasn’t been done yet and it hasn’t been done for a reason: because it is an incredibly challenging assignment,” he said. 

The prototype, called Phantom Swift, features two large lift fans inside a flattened fuselage and smaller ducted fans on the wing that provide forward thrust.

“It looks more like a flying surfboard," he said. “So, you have a giant section in the middle that will give the vehicle lift and then also forward thrust using its outboard propellers.”

Over the past year, said Kasper, Boeing’s design team employed new technologies in building and testing its prototype.

“We’re really focused on what we called ‘rapid prototyping,’” he said.

“That’s doing things differently with additive manufacturing, 3D printing – really coming up with new and novel ways to design and build products in weeks and months and not months and years.”

The Phantom Swift will be developed collaboratively over the next 22 months under a $17 million agreement with DARPA, the Defense Advanced Research Project Agency.