Northrop Grumman and US Air Force's Next-Generation of Global Hawk Unmanned Aircraft Takes Flight
The first Block 40 configuration of the RQ-4 Global Hawk high-altitude, long-endurance (HALE) unmanned aircraft system (UAS) successfully completed its first flight on Nov. 16.
Designated AF-18, the advanced capability aircraft flew for approximately two hours from Northrop Grumman Corporation's manufacturing facility in Palmdale, California to Edwards Air Force Base.
"AF-18, the eleventh of the next-generation Global Hawk Block 20/30/40s to arrive at Edwards Air Force Base, performed beautifully," said George Guerra, Northrop Grumman vice president of HALE systems.
"This flight marks the continuation of our Global Hawk flight test program, and is a testament to the team comprised of people from Northrop Grumman and the Air Force who have worked so hard to make this happen."
This first flight also marks the end of an era, as Global Hawk production acceptance activities will transition in the near future from Edwards Air Force Base to Air Force Plant 42 in Palmdale, improving efficiency and flow of company products. In addition to AF-18, a Block 30 aircraft, AF-19, was recently delivered to the Air Force and is one of 11 major deliveries by the program within the last three months.
Steve Amburgey, Global Hawk program director for the 303d Aeronautical Systems Group at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, noted that the flight of this aircraft is a significant milestone for the Global Hawk program.
"AF-18 is the first of 15 Block 40 Global Hawk aircraft scheduled for fielding to Grand Forks Air Force Base, North Dakota, in 2010," said Amburgey. "The aircraft will carry an advanced, all-weather multi-platform radar technology insertion program (MP-RTIP) sensor, providing game-changing situational awareness for our warfighters with its unprecedented capability to detect, track and identify stationary and moving targets."
Global Hawk's range, endurance and large payload capabilities are well suited to provide persistent surveillance of the enemy with MP-RTIP. Flying at altitudes up to 60,000 feet for more than 32 hours per sortie at speeds approaching 340 knots, the MP-RTIP-equipped Block 40 Global Hawk can persistently see through most type of weather, day or night. As the world's first fully autonomous HALE UAS, Global Hawk is the platform of choice for a wide variety of sensors, foreign and domestic, meeting the global need for persistent ISR.
Northrop Grumman is the prime contractor for the Global Hawk and MP-RTIP programs and continues to move these technologies forward under the stewardship of the Air Force's Aeronautical Systems Center at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, and the Electronic Systems Center, located at Hanscom Air Force Base, Mass. Northrop Grumman's Norwalk, Conn., facility is the principal MP-RTIP radar developer along with principal subcontractor, Raytheon Space and Airborne Systems, El Segundo. The MP-RTIP sensor has completed radar system level performance verification on a surrogate aircraft, and will be integrated into AF-18 for operational evaluation.
Northrop Grumman is also prime contractor for the NATO Alliance Ground Surveillance (NATO AGS) system, in development at the Melbourne, Florida facility of the Aerospace Systems Battle Management & Engagement Systems division, in which the Block 40 RQ-4 is a key component.
Northrop Grumman's Global Hawk program is based at its Aerospace Systems' Unmanned Systems Development Center in San Diego, Calif. The company performs Global Hawk sub-assembly work at its Unmanned Systems Center in Moss Point, Miss., and final assembly at its Antelope Valley Manufacturing Center in Palmdale.
The principal Global Hawk industry team includes: Aurora Flight Sciences, Bridgeport, West Va. (V-tail assembly and other composite structures); L-3 Communications, Salt Lake City (communication system); Raytheon Company, Waltham, Mass. (ground station); Rolls-Royce Corporation, Indianapolis (engine); and Vought Aircraft Industries, Dallas (wing).