Global Hawk continues to soar with Overseas Operations Support, next-generation payload flight testing
The combat-proven RQ-4 Global Hawk unmanned aircraft system (UAS), built by Northrop Grumman Corporation, continues to prove its mettle by exceeding more than 31,000 cumulative flight hours for the US Air Force and US Navy. More than 76 percent of these flight hours were flown in support of overseas contingency operations (OCO) efforts.
"Global Hawk has been a tremendous asset in OCO support, flying more than 1,100 missions in support of Operations Iraqi and Enduring Freedom," said Steve Amburgey, Global Hawk program director for the 303d Aeronautical Systems Group at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio.
"With four aircraft now surging overseas at 97 percent mission effectiveness, the highest of any deployed system, the Global Hawk has consistently demonstrated its resiliency and capabilities."
This milestone comes on the heels of several recent successes, including the Global Hawk's 2,000th mission, deployment of the first Navy aircraft for the Broad Area Maritime Surveillance Demonstration (BAMS-D) program, the first series of flight tests for its Airborne Signals Intelligence Payload (ASIP) on the Block 30 configuration, and completion of initial testing of the Multi-Platform Radar Technology Insertion Program (MP-RTIP) sensor for the Block 40 aircraft.
"Ever since its first OCO deployment in 2001, Global Hawk has provided persistent surveillance -- an unblinking eye -- over and from any place on the planet," said George Guerra, Northrop Grumman vice president of high altitude long endurance (HALE) systems. "These recent achievements are a testament to the robustness of the system, as well as the excellent partnership we have with our customers to ensure our technology is meeting the mark."
Able to simultaneously detect, identify and locate electronic and communications signals as well as special signals, the ASIP sensor will also be used onboard the Global Hawk's manned counterpart, the U-2. ASIP testing is scheduled for completion later this year.
The MP-RTIP tests verified system performance of the Synthetic Aperture Radar and Ground Moving Target Indicator dedicated modes as part of the Radar System Level Performance Verification program. The first Block 40 aircraft, AF-18, has been assembled and awaiting flight testing by the Air Force.
To date, the Global Hawk program has been on cost and on schedule for three straight years. All nine of the Block 10 configurations have been completed and delivered, seven for the Air Force and two for the Navy's BAMS-D program. All of the six Block 20s have been delivered and the rest of the fleet are in various stages of production and flight testing, including 17 Block 30s and one Block 40.
"Global Hawk, which can fly three times as long and operates at more than half the cost per flight hour than its manned counterpart, is the best value system for our warfighters," said Guerra. "Compared to other similar UAS, it only takes a single Global Hawk to collect the same information as 18 smaller medium-altitude unmanned systems."
Costing approximately $30 million each, without the applicable sensor package, Global Hawk's range, endurance and large payload capabilities are well suited to support a variety of customers and missions, including environmental and Earth science research, homeland security, border and coastal patrol, hurricane and fire monitoring, and other disaster relief support activities.
The Global Hawk is the world's first fully autonomous HALE UAS, collecting persistent ground surveillance data over a wide area for both military intelligence analysis and warfighters' battle management and targeting. Global Hawk can fly at altitudes of more than 60,000 feet for more than 32 hours, providing surveillance day or night, regardless of weather conditions.
Global Hawks are currently flown in four locations across the globe: Beale Air Force Base, home of the 9th Reconnaissance Wing and the RQ-4's main operating base, in Northern California; Edwards Air Force Base in Southern California; Patuxent River Naval Air Station in Maryland; and in support of the OCO efforts.
Northrop Grumman's principal Global Hawk teammates include: Aurora Flight Sciences, Bridgeport, West Va. (V-tail assembly and other composite structures); L-3 Communications, Salt Lake City (communication system); Raytheon Company, Waltham, Mass. (integrated sensor suite and ground station); Rolls-Royce Corporation, Indianapolis (engine); and Vought Aircraft Industries, Dallas (wing).
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