(In which our resident Trekkie goes “Squeeeeee!!!!!!!)
About 20 years ago, Boeing wanted to gain insight into certain aspects of stealth technology and unconventional airframes, as it absorbed McDonnell Douglas, and moved into the tactical aircraft business. And the best way to do that was get a little hands on experience by building a technology demonstrator. That is, they built a one of a kind airplane, just because they could, and to see what happened. The result was one of the more visually striking aircraft ever.
Even better, there’s video of it!
Looking at it, you’d think it was a hypersonic starplane, ready to blast its way straight to orbit. Actually, given the limitations on how it was constructed (hydraulic flight controls were used to save money) and the fact that stealth is stealth at whatever speed, the top speed was a very mild 260 knots, and the max altitude was only 20,000 feet.
Boeing built and tested the Bird of Prey with its own money. As a private venture, it was never given an “X” number or any other government designation. It was, however, donated to the Air Force museum after the test program was completed.
Total program cost? $67 million. And the experience gained has been used by Boeing on its X-45 unmanned aerial vehicle.
(Later production variant is much larger, with sufficient space in the fuselage to accommodate two whales)