Northrop Grumman flew the Euro Hawk UAV demonstrator for the German air force (GAF) to Manching airbase near Munich for further development and testing. The journey from Edwards AFB in California on July 20 took slightly more than 22 hours, four hours longer than originally planned, and was delayed 48 hours by weather and flight-plan difficulties.
The Euro Hawk is a signals-intelligence (Sigint)-only version of the RQ-4 Global Hawk Block 20, in which Northrop is partnered by EADS Cassidian Air Systems.
Cassidian will now add its integrated, signals-intelligence system (ISIS) to the UAV, so that flight tests can resume by year-end. The pods and fairings for this combined communications-intelligence/communications-intelligence (Comint/Elint) system are already on the aircraft, which logged more than 100 test flight hours at Edwards. Northrop completed additional electromagnetic interference testing there, prompted by German concerns over the dense radio-frequency environment that the Euro Hawk would encounter in Europe.
The ISIS design includes options for onboard storage and automatic analysis, to reduce the bandwidth requirements for datalinking to the ground stations. Cassidian is also responsible for these, comprising a fixed-site, mission-planning and evaluation center at Nienburg, and a mobile-mission-execution set-up in containers.
Ten contractor test flights from Manching are planned before the Euro Hawk is moved to Schleswig-Jagel airbase in northern Germany for joint testing with the GAF mid-2012. German pilots are currently being trained, at Beale AFB in the U.S., to operate the UAV’s launch-and-recovery and mission-control ground stations.
The Germans are doing a full, military certification of the Euro Hawk, which must also meet various NATO standardization agreements (STANAGs). If all goes well, the GAF will order an additional four Euro Hawks for delivery between 2015 and 2017.