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Northrop Grumman's Global Hawk UAS Surpasses Expectations, Establishes Delivery Record In 2007

The ubiquitous RQ-4 Global Hawk can soar nearly 13 miles above the ground or up to 65,000 feet, much higher than any other operational unmanned aircraft. It provides military field commanders with high-resolution, near real-time imagery and other sensor data for intelligence, targeting and surveillance. The high-flying aerial vehicle can persistently see through any type of weather at any time from great distances for more than 30 hours.
by Staff Writers
San Diego CA (SPX) Jan 29, 2008
Northrop Grumman RQ-4 Global Hawk unmanned aerial system program finished 2007 on a high note, exceeding its previous record by delivering five production aircraft to the U.S. Air Force. "Not only did we exceed our production and delivery goals last year, but we have also performed on cost and on schedule for the past two years," said Jerry Madigan, Northrop Grumman vice president of high-altitude long-endurance systems.

"That is no easy feat for any program, especially for one as large and complex as the combat-proven Global Hawk, the Air Force's biggest, most-capable unmanned aerial system," said Randy Brown, Global Hawk program director for the 303rd Aeronautical Systems Group at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio. "Global Hawk surpassed our expectations further by displaying its strength and versatility during the Southern California wildfires in late October, becoming the newest element in our country's firefighting arsenal."

Flying its first civil emergency support sortie, Global Hawk completed three missions ranging from 10 to 14 hours and collected more than 700 images to support firefighters and local authorities.

All nine of the Block 10 aircraft have been completed- - seven for the Air Force plus two for the U.S. Navy's Global Hawk Maritime Demonstration (GHMD), as well as two ground stations each consisting of a mission control element (MCE) and a launch and recovery element (LRE). Seventeen aircraft are presently in various stages of production and flight test- - six Block 20s, 10 Block 30s and one Block 40, plus six ground stations.

In addition, three Global Hawks have been deployed in support of the global war on terrorism (GWOT), logging nearly 14,000 combat hours with approximately 19,000 total program flights hours and 95 percent mission effectiveness. Out of the 456 combat missions flown since January 2006, only 11 sorties were canceled in 2007 due to maintenance, weather, or mission reasons.

"The system is so robust and reliable that it was deployed, while still an advanced concept technology demonstration asset, immediately after Sept. 11, 2001," said Brown. "It supported the Air Force during Operations Enduring and Iraqi Freedom, integrating seamlessly with airborne manned and unmanned systems to provide essential information to the warfighters."

Other significant program firsts and milestones in 2007 include:

- Winning a contract to build a Euro Hawk system on Feb. 1 - the first Global Hawk international contract valued at $559 million from the German Ministry of Defence.

- Completing first flights of the new Block 20 and Block 30 variants on March 1 and Nov. 16, respectively.

- Receiving a $371 million contract award in May for Lot 6 production that includes five Block 30s, three MCEs, and three LREs.

- Deploying the third production Block 10 aircraft in July in support of GWOT, marking the first Global Hawk landing at Andersen Air Force Base in Guam.

- Delivering the first Block 40-configured fuselage from the company's Moss Point, Miss., facility to its Palmdale, Calif., production site in September.

- Signing of a memorandum of agreement between the Air Force and NASA on Sept. 29, transferring two Global Hawks to NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center at Edwards Air Force Base for environmental research. As the first and sixth Global Hawks built under the original development program sponsored by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, the aircraft are expected to support a variety of NASA experiments.

- Establishing robust GHMD operations at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Md., with the completion of more than 60 flights and over 400 flight hours.

- Achieving CMMI (capability maturity model integration) Level 3 certification for both systems and software.

"The year 2008 promises to be yet another exciting year as we unveil the NASA Global Hawks in March, and conduct the GHMD Trident Warrior and RIMPAC exercises in the summer," said Madigan. "We will also be supporting the Pacific Air Forces' Global Hawk capabilities forum in April, when representatives from 11 nations will meet with U.S. Air Force officials in Hawaii to discuss a regional consortium to procure and operate Global Hawks."

Representatives from numerous Pacific Rim countries will participate in a kick-off discussion at Hickam Air Force Base, Hawaii, then travel to Beale Air Force Base, Calif. to observe a Global Hawk demonstration mission.

The Global Hawk is also being considered for the U.S. Navy's Broad Area Maritime Surveillance program expected to be announced early this year.

The ubiquitous RQ-4 Global Hawk can soar nearly 13 miles above the ground or up to 65,000 feet, much higher than any other operational unmanned aircraft. It provides military field commanders with high-resolution, near real-time imagery and other sensor data for intelligence, targeting and surveillance. The high-flying aerial vehicle can persistently see through any type of weather at any time from great distances for more than 30 hours.

Each Block 20/30/40 Global Hawk air vehicle costs approximately $27.6 million, without the sensor package. The Block 20/30/40 configurations can carry 1,000 more pounds (up to 3,000 pounds) of internal payload and operate with two-and-a-half times the electrical power than the Block 10 configuration. The unique open system architecture, a so-called "plug-and-play" environment, will accommodate new sensors and communication systems as they are developed to help military customers quickly evaluate and adopt new technologies.

The Block 10 configuration uses a basic integrated sensor suite with an electro-optical (EO), infrared (IR), synthetic aperture radar (SAR) payload and limited signals intelligence (SIGINT). Block 20 utilizes an enhanced integrated sensor suite (EISS) with EO/IR/SAR sensors and limited SIGINT. Block 30 will also use an EISS EO/IR/SAR sensor coupled with an enhanced SIGINT system known as the advanced signals intelligence payload, thus creating a robust multi-intelligence system. The Block 40 will carry the new multi-platform radar technology insertion program radar, providing the warfighter with a needed capability.

Global Hawks are now flying in four locations across the globe: Beale Air Force Base (home of the 9th Reconnaissance Wing and the RQ-4's main operating base) near Sacramento in Northern California, Edwards Air Force Base in Southern California, Naval Air Station Patuxent River in Maryland, and in support of GWOT.

The principal Global Hawk team members include: Aurora Flight Sciences, Bridgeport, West Va. (V-tail assembly and other composite structures); L-3 Communications, Salt Lake City, Utah (communication system); Raytheon Space and Airborne Systems, El Segundo, Calif. (integrated sensor suite); Raytheon Intelligence and Information Systems, Falls Church, Va. (ground station); Rolls-Royce Corporation, Indianapolis, Ind. (engine); and Vought Aircraft Industries, Dallas, Texas (wing).

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