Versions of the Global Hawk are proliferating, with five now in service or development for the U.S., as well as the Euro Hawk for Germany and another for the NATO-AGS (air/ground surveillance) requirement.
The U.S. Air Force flies the original Block 10 and the enhanced Block 20 versions on imaging reconnaissance missions. The Block 20 has a larger wingspan and payload, and provides more power to the aircraft’s Raytheon System Ltd. improved radar and EO/IR sensors. The Global Hawk has been operating from Al Dhafra airbase in the United Arab Emirates since 2001. Operations from two more overseas locations– Anderson Air Force Base on Guam and the Sigonella Naval Air Station in Italy–are planned to start later this year.
The Block 30 version has been flying for more than a year carrying the Northrop Grumman advanced signals intelligence payload (ASIP), an integrated high- and low-band system that features advanced algorithms for modern signal exploitation. The Block 40 version–which is due to fly this summer–will carry the new Northrop Grumman/Raytheon MP-RTIP AESA surveillance radar. Meanwhile, a prototype MP-RTIP sensor is flying on the Proteus testbed provided to Northrop Grumman by Scaled Composites.
NATO recently approved the purchase of eight Global Hawks equipped with the MP-RTIP sensor for the long-running AGS requirement. They will be based at Sigonella beginning in 2012, downlinking the sensor data to ground stations that will be provided by a team led by EADS.
Last year, the Global Hawk won the U.S. Navy’s broad area maritime surveillance (BAMS) contest. That version will carry a new Northrop Grumman radar. Ahead of the win, Northrop Grumman produced two maritime demonstration versions of the Global Hawk that are based at the Patuxent River Naval Air Station in Maryland.