Euro Hawk Is Unveiled, But Latest Global Hawks Face Problems

 - October 26, 2009, 11:12 AM

The first Euro Hawk UAV for the German Air Force (GAF) was unveiled last month at Northrop Grumman’s Palmdale, Calif. facility. It was apparent that the wing pods that house the SIGINT sensors, provided by EADS Defence and Security, have again grown in size, since AIN provided a description of this program at the Paris Air Show last June.

The Euro Hawk is a joint venture between NG and EADS DS, and is based on the Block 20 Global Hawk that is already in U.S. Air Force service. At the unveiling, a GAF official revealed that the flight test plan for the Euro Hawk has changed. It will now remain at Edwards AFB for at least a year, where it can fly in segregated airspace before being ferried to Germany.

The Block 30 Global Hawk is also intended for the SIGINT role, equipped with Northrop Grumman’s own advanced signals intelligence payload (ASIP). But AIN has learned from U.S. Air Force sources that deliveries to the USAF are still two years away because of integration difficulties with the UAV. In the meantime, NG will deliver Block 30 (I) Global Hawks equipped only with imaging sensors. However, the ASIP has been successfully added to a few manned U-2 surveillance aircraft. A Northrop Grumman spokesman told AIN there were no problems in adding ASIP to the Global Hawk.

Meanwhile, the future of the next Global Hawk version for the U.S. Air Force has been questioned. The Block 40 is supposed to carry the new MP-RTIP surveillance radar sensor that is under development by a Northrop Grumman/Raytheon team. The sensor has already been flight tested on the Scaled Composites Proteus testbed aircraft, and the Global Hawk Block 40 was unveiled at Palmdale last June. But the U.S. Congress has proposed a major cut in funding, and a source told AIN that the U.S. Air Force would now prefer the MP-RTIP to be installed on a larger and more powerful platform to enhance its performance as a moving target indicator. If correct, this has implications for the long-delayed NATO AGS program, which would also use the Global Hawk/MP-RTIP combination.