The Bird of Prey was a black project aircraft intended to demonstrate stealth technology. Fully paid for by company funds at a price of $67 million (as opposed to the government-sponsored norm), it was a very cost-effective program, developing technology and materials which would later be used on Boeing's X-45 UCAV. As an internal project, this aircraft was not given an X-plane designation.
The Bird of Prey was developed beginning in 1992 by then-McDonnell Douglas' Phantom Works division for special projects. Phantom Works is now a part of Boeing Integrated Defense Systems. The aircraft's name is a reference to the Bird of Prey spacecraft 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 rumored to have been used to test active camouflage, which would involve coatings or panels capable of changing color or luminosity.
Interestingly, for a groundbreaking aircraft, the Bird of Prey uses a commercial off-the-shelf turbofan engine, and hydraulic controls rather than fly-by-wire. The lack of computerized controls on a military aircraft is an oddity in modern times, especially on an aircraft with such an unusual wing design.
The aircraft was made public on October 18, 2002, and was put on display at the National Museum of the United States Air Force at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base near Dayton, Ohio on July 16, 2003.