Tuesday, August 10, 2010

RQ-4 Global Hawk UAVs Prepare for Maritime Role

Northrop Grumman’s RQ-4 Global Hawk UAV has established a dominant position in the High Altitude/ Long Endurance UAV market. While they are not cheap, they are uniquely capable. During Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF), the system flew only 5% of the US Air Force’s high altitude reconnaissance sorties, but accounted for more than 55% of the time-sensitive targeting imagery generated to support strike missions. The RQ-4 Global Hawk was also a leading contender in the Broad Area Maritime Surveillance (BAMS) UAV competition, and eventually won.

The Global Hawk Maritime Demonstration Program aims to use the proven RQ-4 Global Hawk airframe as a test bed for operational concepts and technologies that will eventually find their way into BAMS, and contribute valuable understanding to the new field of maritime surveillance with high-flying UAVs…

Contracts and Key Events

Global Hawk Cutaway

(click to view full)All contracts are managed by The Naval Air Systems Command in Patuxent River, MD. The US military lists Northrop Grumman Corp. Integrated Systems, Western Region in San Diego, CA as the contractor, which is technically true. While that was the original contract, NGC Integrated Systems was combined with NGC Space Technology to form Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems in January, 2009.

July 23/10: Northrop Grumman Aerospace Sector in San Diego, CA receives a $29.7 million cost-plus-fixed-fee contract to provide operations and maintenance services for the U.S. Navy’s Global Hawk Maritime Demonstration.

Work will be performed outside the U.S. (50%); and in Patuxent River, MD (30%); and San Diego, CA (20%), and is expected to be complete in August 2010. All contract funds will expire at the end of the current fiscal year. This contract was not competitively procured pursuant to FAR 6.302-1.

July 15/10: A $5.5 million contract modification for software development to test maritime surveillance and maritime imaging modes for the MP-RTIP radar. At this time, all funds have been committed by the Electronic Systems Center at Hanscom Air Force Base, MA (F-19628-00-C-0100; P00209).

The Northrop Grumman/Raytheon MP-RTIP is a 1.5×4 foot active, electronically scanned array (AESA) radar designed to provide better resolution than current ground-viewing systems. It will equip new Global Hawk Block 40s, but at the moment, it’s experiencing software challenges with “concurrent” mode, where the radar tracks moving targets (GTMI) while maintaining a high-resolution synthetic aperture radar (SAR) mapping scan. See also Aviation Week.

To read more on the history of this program, click here.

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