The Boeing X-45A served as a scaled-down, advanced technology demonstrator for a project conducted by the Defense Advanced Research Project Agency (DARPA) and the U.S. Air Force. The goal was to demonstrate the technologies needed to conduct suppression of enemy air defenses (SEAD) missions with Unmanned Combat Air Vehicles (UCAV).
In September 2000 Boeing's "Phantom Works" completed the first of two X-45A UCAVs, using research gathered from its manned Bird of Prey aircraft. After extensive ground testing, the first X-45A completed its first flight at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., on May 22, 2002, and the second vehicle followed in November.
In 2003 the Department of Defense consolidated the Boeing X-45 UCAV program with the Northrop Grumman X-47A UCAV project. The resulting Joint Unmanned Combat Air Systems (J-UCAS) program employed a common operating system that integrated system components like sensors, weapons and communications equipment.
During its test program, the X-45A accomplished a number of significant events in aviation history. On April 18, 2004, the X-45A demonstrator hit a ground target with a 250-pound, inert, precision guided weapon released from its internal weapons bay. On Aug. 1, 2004, for the first time, one pilot-operator successfully controlled two X-45As in flight simultaneously.
The X-45As successfully completed their test program on Aug. 10, 2005, by autonomously flying a pre-planned SEAD mission against simulated ground-based radars and associated surface-to-air missile launchers. This test also required the UCAVs to use their on-board, decision-making software to avoid a new, unplanned threat. Their computers independently determined which aircraft would attack the new target based upon their position, weapons and fuel. After the pilot-operator back at Edwards Air Force Base checked the plan created by the UCAVs' software, the X-45As successfully attacked and returned to base.
The X-45A on display came to the museum in August 2006.