Paris Air Show

Paris 2011: Northrop Grumman Block 40 Global Hawk and Variants Progress towards Various Milestones

 - June 21, 2011, 10:10 AM

Northrop Grumman officials during a Paris Air Show briefing reported that the first Block 40 Global Hawk high-altitude UAV for the U.S. Air Force is scheduled to make its first flight this week equipped with the Northrop Grumman/Raytheon radar technology insertion program (RTIP) sensor.

Ed Walby, Northrop Grumman business development director, sang the praises of the state-of-the-art sensor. “The RTIP is the only radar that can do concurrent MTI and SAR. The MTI scan is faster than JSTARS and covers a 30-percent larger area,” he said. The USAF is scheduled to receive 12 RTIP-equipped Block 40s to be based at Grand Forks AFB, North Dakota.

The Block 40 Global Hawk with the RTIP sensor also forms the basis for Northrop Grumman’s proposal to NATO for an alliance ground surveillance system. The company is hoping that this long-gestating requirement may firm into a contract for six air vehicles by the end of this year. The ground stations would be provided by European industry.

Northrop Grumman officials also said in Paris that the first example of the Euro Hawk, the signals intelligence (SIGINT) version of the Global Hawk for the German air force, will soon make a transatlantic ferry flight to Manching airbase in Germany. The flight is expected to occur next month, after the Euro Hawk’s 11th and last round-robin test sortie from Edwards Air Force Base in California this week.

Once the UAV reaches Germany, EADS Cassidian will fit the integrated signals intelligence system (ISIS) that it has developed so that the Euro Hawk can replace the German air force’s already-retired Atlantic SIGINT aircraft.

Ten test flights are scheduled from Manching in the second half of this year before the Euro Hawk moves to the German air force’s operational base at Schleswig-Jagel in northern Germany. More flights there should lead to a formal handover in mid-2012.

Only this first Euro Hawk and ISIS system are currently contracted, but Marcus Heller, program manager for EADS Cassidian, is hoping that the German air force will confirm four more air vehicles and a second set of ground stations next year. The development of ISIS in Germany “allows national access to source code,” he noted. The COMINT and ELINT subsystems of ISIS share the same antennas, in fuselage fairings and under-wing pods.

Meanwhile, the first flight of the broad-area, maritime surveillance (BAMS) version of the Global Hawk for the U.S. Navy is scheduled for next spring, according to Walt Kreitler, Northrop Grumman business development director. Ahead of that event, the Navy is flying two development aircraft with three Block 10 Global Hawks that were declared surplus to Air Force requirements.

The company foresees production of as many as 68 dedicated BAMS air vehicles to provide almost global ocean coverage from five worldwide bases. Kreitler explained that while the Boeing P-8 Poseidon will replace the P-3 Orion in anti-ship and anti-submarine warfare, the bulk of the P-3’s maritime surveillance tasking will be assumed by the BAMS system.

“Maritime surveillance is a 360-degree business,” he added, by way of introduction to the BAMS sensor suite, which includes Northrop Grumman’s own multi-function active sensor, a “spinning” X-band active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar; the Raytheon MTS-B electro-optical/infrared (EO/IR) sensor ball; and an electronic support measures (ESM) system.  

The BAMS requirement has driven various improvements to the Global Hawk airframe that may be retrofitted to USAF versions. These include wing and engine-inlet de-icing and a sense-and-avoid radar in the nose. The open-architecture ground station and all-military satellite communications systems that are being developed for BAMS could also be used in Air Force operations.