The US Military and its contractors have been no stranger to creating some pretty amazing aircraft, and this prototype designed by Boeing is no different! This aircraft that looks like it is straight out of a Star Trek movie, and was built during the time of great importance of the idea of stealth technology. The aircraft was named after a Klingon ship from Star Trek, and it’s appearance fits that name.
One of the most intriguing products of the Phantom Works that really was a denizen of Area 51 on George Muellner’s watch was the Bird of Prey. Visually, this aircraft possessed the strange, but sleek design characteristics that are appreciated by those in the world of extraterrestrial buffs. It was even named after an alien spaceship. According to James Wallace, writing in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer of October 18, 2002, it is named for a class of Klingon starships first seen in the 1984 motion picture Star Trek III: The Search for Spock.
The Bird of Prey project began at the Phantom Works in 1992, and the aircraft made its first flight eight months earlier than the X-36 on September 11, 1996. Unlike the publicly acknowledged NASA X-36, the Bird of Prey was a classified program, funded by the contractor but apparently managed by the US Air Force. Like Tacit Blue, it was successfully obscured from public view until its flight test program concluded in April 1999 after forty successful flights.
The Bird of Prey program, like many of the projects that have come out of the Phantom Works, utilized rapid prototyping techniques to cut both costs and development time. According to the company, the program “pioneered breakthrough low-observable technologies and revolutionized aircraft design, development and production.” The Bird of Prey was also one of the first aircraft programs to “initiate the use of large, single-piece composite structures; low-cost, disposable tooling; and 3D virtual reality design and assembly processes to ensure the aircraft was affordable to build as well as high-performing.”