The U.S. Air Force’s RQ-4B Global Hawk is among 16 acquisition programs that experienced problems during early testing last year that need to be corrected, according to the Pentagon’s Office of the Director, Operational Test and Evaluation (DOT&E).
Multi-Platform Radar Technology Insertion Program
In the wake of the Euro Hawk cancellation in Germany, the future of the NATO Alliance Ground Surveillance (AGS) system based on the similar Northrop Grumman Global Hawk UAV is in doubt. Germany intends to offer for AGS whatever alternative platform it decides to employ for the Cassidian integrated signals intelligence system (ISIS) that was the payload on the Euro Hawk. The Royal Air Force Raytheon Sentinel R.1 ground surveillance aircraft is also on offer.
Northrop Grumman gained a $1.7 billion (€1.2 billion) contract to supply five Block 40 Global Hawk UAVs with advanced multi-platform radar technology insertion program (MP-RTIP) radars for the NATO Alliance Ground Surveillance (AGS) program.
U.S. Air Force leadership has defended the decision to halt acquisition and current operations of the Global Hawk Block 30 UAV, in favor of retaining the manned Lockheed Martin U-2 reconnaissance aircraft.
NATO officials expect to sign the long-awaited contract to provide an Allied Ground Surveillance (AGS) capability within the next three months. Northrop Grumman will provide five Global Hawk Block 40 UAVs, while a consortium of European companies that includes EADS Cassidian and Selex Galileo will provide transportable and mobile ground stations. Initial operating capability (IOC) is slated for 2017-18.
Northrop Grumman is hoping that funds to re-engine the first two operational E-8C JSTARS radar surveillance aircraft will be provided in the Fiscal 2013 budget next year. The test bed aircraft is now flying with JT8D-219 engines that Northrop Grumman has modified with a new pneumatic system that it claims “vastly improves reliability and the hardware’s life cycle.” Although the JT8D is hardly new technology, the 17 operational E-8Cs are powered by even older JT3Ds. A $1.7 billion program to replace them was started some years ago, and the test bed first flew with JT8Ds in December 2008.
Fifteen years after the concept was first mooted, NATO may finally acquire an alliance ground surveillance system (AGS). Northrop Grumman last month submitted a firm baseline proposal plus options on behalf of a transatlantic consortium that also includes EADS, Selex Galileo and a variety of smaller European companies.
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 strategic importance of active array airborne radar technology in Europe cannot be understated, according to EADS Defence Electronics (Hall 2 Stand A151). The company has invested heavily in advanced transmit/receive (T/R) modules that have a variety of applications. The advantages of using T/R modules for airborne fire control, as well as airborne and ground-based surveillance are well recognized.
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.
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