Development of the Bird of Prey began in 1992 by McDonnell Douglas‘s Phantom Works division for special projects. The aircraft’s name is a reference to the Klingon Bird of Prey warship from the Star Trek television series.
The first flight was in 1996, and 39 more were performed through the program’s conclusion in 1999. The Bird of Prey is designed to prevent shadows and is believed to have been used to test active camouflage, which would involve its surfaces changing color or luminosity to match the surroundings.
The Bird of Prey was among the first to initiate the use of large, single-piece composite structures; low-cost, disposable tooling; and 3-D virtual reality design and assembly processes to ensure the aircraft was affordable to build as well as high-performing.