It is intended to be a technology demonstrator for an aircraft with enhanced reconnaissance and surveillance capabilities and with the ability to attack enemy air defense systems, equipped with electronic countermeasures. It should also be able to perform aerial refueling completely autonomously.
Development of the Phantom Ray began in 2007, with the name "Project Reblue." It was started after the J-UCAS program was cancelled.
Boeing wanted to develop and study the basics of future technology, so they funded the Boeing X-45C UAV project. The new aircraft was a technology demonstrator with the codename Phantom Ray. The first time it was shown publicly was on 10th May 2010 in St. Louis.
The first roll-out of the type was on 18th November 2010 at the Lambert-St. Louis International Airport. The first flight was planned for December 2010 but it was rescheduled to take place in April 2011. In December 13, 2010 it was carried by a Boeing 747, which is primarly used to carry NASA space shuttles, to the Dryden Flight Research Center, for additional ground testing. Later it was carried by the 747 to Edwards Air Force base, to perform its first flight on 27th April 2011. The flight was successful and lasted for 17 minutes. It reached a ceiling of 7,500 ft and a speed of 178 kt.