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28 octobre 2015 3 28 /10 /octobre /2015 12:35
A U.S. Air Force RQ-4 Global Hawk soars through the sky during a reconnaissance mission. U.S. Air Force photo

A U.S. Air Force RQ-4 Global Hawk soars through the sky during a reconnaissance mission. U.S. Air Force photo

 

Oct. 23, 2015 By Ryan Maass (UPI)

 

SEOUL -- Northrop Grumman corporate officials and industrial partners in South Korea celebrated the first unmanned aerial vehicle component parts manufactured in the country on Thursday. The company officials met during the Seoul International Aerospace Defense Exhibition (ADEX), an industrial aerospace and defense exhibition showcasing around 400 firms. Firstec and Korea Jig and Fixtures displayed component parts for the RQ-4 Global Hawk, an unmanned aerial vehicle designed for high-altitutde, long-endurance intelligence and reconnaissance operations.

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16 septembre 2015 3 16 /09 /septembre /2015 11:20
photo USAF

photo USAF

 

15.09.2015 sputniknews.com

 

Les Etats-Unis sont en train de développer un nouvel avion de reconnaissance afin de remplacer l'U-2 en service depuis plus de 50 ans.

 

La division Skunk Works du groupe américain Lockheed Martin a présenté le projet d'un avion de reconnaissance capable de remplacer aussi bien l'U-2 Dragon Lady que le drone Global Hawk, rapportent les médias occidentaux.

 

Le nouvel avion doit être développé d'ici 2025. D'après le magazine Ainonline, les Etats-Unis pourraient avoir besoin de ce type d'appareil au cours des trois prochaines années.

 

Le Lockheed U-2 est un avion-espion en service dans l'US Air Force depuis plus de 50 ans. Il est capable de voler pendant 12 heures à plus de 21.000 mètres d'altitude. Sa vitesse  maximale est supérieure à 800 km/h.

 

Un de ces appareils a été abattu le 1er mai 1960 alors qu'il effectuait un vol de reconnaissance au-dessus de l'Union soviétique. Cet épisode a alors entraîné une détérioration des relations entre Moscou et Washington.

 

Développé par Teledyne Ryan Aeronautical (filiale de Northrop Grumman), le Global Hawk est un drone de reconnaissance américain conçu pour des missions stratégiques. L'appareil a effectué son premier vol le 28 février 1998 depuis une base aérienne en Californie. Il est capable de voler pendant 30 heures à 18.000 mètres d'altitude.

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6 juin 2015 6 06 /06 /juin /2015 07:50
L'OTAN a commandé cinq Global Hawk. photo Northrop Grumman

L'OTAN a commandé cinq Global Hawk. photo Northrop Grumman

 

05/06/2015 par Emmanuel Huberdeau – Air & Cosmos

 

Northrop Grumman a présenté le 4 juin 2015 le premier drone HALE (Haute Altitude Longue Endurance) Global Hawk destiné à l'OTAN, baptisé "NATO Alliance Ground Surveillance (AGS) aircraft".

 

La commande du Global Hawk avait été décidée en 2012 lors du sommet de l'OTAN. A Chicago, les pays de l'alliance avaient alors signé le contrat d'acquisition de cinq drones  "stratégiques” RQ-4 Global Hawk Block 40.

 

Northrop Grumman annonce que le système a été développé en collaboration avec des industriels européens dont Airbus Defence and Space, Selex ES et Kongsberg. Au total, les industriels de 15 pays (Sur les 28 de l'OTAN) ont été impliqués dans le programme AGS. Les 28 pays de l'alliance participeront ensuite au soutien du système sur le long terme. L'achat des drones et des équipements associés, ainsi que la formation du personnel, représentent un coût de plus d'un milliard d'euros, selon l'Otan. Les coûts de fonctionnement de l'AGS au cours des vingt prochaines années seront supérieurs à 2 md€. La France ne participe pas au programme d'acquisition.

 

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18 mars 2015 3 18 /03 /mars /2015 12:45
Maroc/Etats-Unis : Des drones américains pour l'armée marocaine ?

 

17.03.2015 Par El Hadji Mamadou Gueye - yabiladi.com

 

Alors que les F-16 de l’armée marocaine participent actuellement aux combats menés contre Daesh, le royaume pourrait bénéficier de nouvelles armes américaines. Il figure en tout cas sur une liste très réduite de pays susceptibles d’être les premiers acheteurs de drones US types MQ-9 Reaper et Northrop Grumman RQ-4 Global Hawk.

 

L’armée marocaine a récemment déployé ses F-16 (de fabrication américaine) pour participer aux combats menés par un groupe de pays contre l’organisation "Etat Islamique" en Irak et en Syrie. Le Maroc et les Etats-Unis pourraient même franchir une nouveau cap dans leur coopération militaire puisque le Maroc est sur une liste très réduite de pays qui pourraient être les premiers bénéficiaires des drones américains.

En effet, selon le journal National Interest, le royaume serait parmi les cinq premiers pays au monde à recevoir des drones US types MQ-9 Reaper et le Northrop Grumman RQ-4 Global Hawk, fabriqués par General Atomics. Il figure dans cette liste avec l’Inde, le Brésil ou encore le Canada et Singapour.

 

Surveiller les groupes terroristes au Mali, Libye, Algérie

Ces drones, selon la même source, pourraient être utiles dans la surveillance des frontières maroco-algériennes, notamment dans les zones où s’activent des groupes extrémistes. National Interest explique que le royaume est situé dans une région qui est en proie à des mouvements fondamentalistes islamiques qui doivent être combattus, faisant ainsi référence au Mali, à la Libye et une partie de l’Algérie. 

Outre les Lockheed Martin F-16, l’armée marocaine exploite d’autres équipements américains tels que les drones non armés Predator XP et avait aussi acquis en 2014 de nouveaux lots de missiles pour les F-16. Mais si l’accord est conclu, il pourrait disposer de drones armés pour surveiller les mouvements de groupes terroristes.

En 2014, le Maroc avait également acheté trois drones au fabricant français Dassault. Il s'agit de drones Heron TP de fabrication israélienne (Israel Aerospace Industries), capables de « mener des missions de reconnaissance et de collecte d’informations à plus de 40 000 pieds, et dotés d'une autonomie de vol de 36 heures ». Compte tenu de sa taille, le Heron TP peut transporter différents équipements : radars, détecteurs, des caméras, missiles...

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13 mars 2015 5 13 /03 /mars /2015 12:20
RQ-4B model - photo USAF

RQ-4B model - photo USAF

 

Mar 11, 2015 ASDNews Source : US Air Force

 

U.S. Air Forces Central Command Public Affairs  -- Shortly before dawn Mar. 7, an RQ-4 Global Hawk embarked on an Operation Inherent Resolve mission that sent the aircraft soaring past the 10,000 flying hour milestone at an undisclosed location in Southwest Asia.

 

RQ-4 Global Hawk aircraft 2019, or "A2019", was the first block 20 and first RQ-4B model to arrive here on Oct. 16, 2010. It's the first Global Hawk to reach 10,000 hour flying milestone. During its service, the aircraft has been providing support to warfighters by relaying communications between people and aircraft as well as enabling airstrikes on the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant/Da'esh forces.

 

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21 janvier 2015 3 21 /01 /janvier /2015 07:35
Japan Selects Northrop Grumman's E-2D Advanced Hawkeye and RQ-4 Global Hawk to Improve Intel Gathering Capabilities

 

REDONDO BEACH, Calif. – Jan. 18, 2015 – Northrop Grumman

 

The Japan Ministry of Defense has selected two Northrop Grumman Corporation (NYSE:NOC) systems to enhance its intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities.

 

Under a process known as type selection, the Japanese government chose the E-2D Advanced Hawkeye airborne early warning aircraft and the RQ-4 Global Hawk unmanned aircraft system to help maintain the country's sovereignty.

 

Type selection identifies the capabilities and systems to be purchased to meet specific defense requirements. Following selection, the U.S. government will be asked to enter into the foreign military sale (FMS) process for these items.

 

"Northrop Grumman has a long history working with Japan's Air Self-Defense Force and we look forward to continuing that relationship for many years to come," said Mary Petryszyn, vice president for International, Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems. "We are very pleased the Japan Ministry of Defense has expressed confidence in these systems and look forward to working with our U.S. military customers through the FMS process."

 

Contract terms, timing and quantities of aircraft are yet to be determined and, as such, details are not available at this time.

 

Northrop Grumman is a leading global security company providing innovative systems, products and solutions in unmanned systems, cyber, C4ISR, and logistics and modernization to government and commercial customers worldwide. Please visit www.northropgrumman.com for more information.

Japan Selects Northrop Grumman's E-2D Advanced Hawkeye and RQ-4 Global Hawk to Improve Intel Gathering Capabilities

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8 janvier 2015 4 08 /01 /janvier /2015 17:20
Northrop Claims New Record for Global Hawk UAV

Jan 8, 2015 defense-unmanned.com

(Source: Northrop Grumman; issued Jan 7, 2015)

High Altitude Long Endurance Unmanned Aircraft Series Sets New Flight Record

SAN DIEGO --- The U.S. Air Force RQ-4 Global Hawk and other variants of Northrop Grumman Corporation's High Altitude Long Endurance (HALE) Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) series continued to prove their value to U.S. government agencies by flying more intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) mission hours in one week than ever before.

The UAS series flew 781 hours from Sept. 10-16. The Air Force's RQ-4 Global Hawk flew 87 percent of the missions; the U.S. Navy's Broad Area Maritime Surveillance- Demonstration (BAMS-D) aircraft and NASA's Global Hawk hurricane research asset flew the rest. HALE's far-reaching weekly record surpasses the company's previous weekly flight record of 665 hours set in February.

"There are at least two Global Hawks in the air at all times providing indispensable ISR information to those that need it," said Mick Jaggers, Global Hawk UAS program director, Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems. "The 2014 fiscal year was the most active yet for the Global Hawk, with a 40 percent year over year increase in flight hours."

Within weeks of the record, Northrop Grumman delivered two new RQ-4 Global Hawk aircraft to the Air Force. A wide area surveillance model arrived at Grand Forks Air Force Base, North Dakota, on Sept. 10 and Beale Air Force Base. received a multi-INT model Oct. 3.

The increases in flight hours and size of the fleet will give combatant commanders more ISR capabilities at a time when demand often outstrips aircraft availability.

Manufactured at Northrop Grumman facilities in Moss Point, Mississippi, and Palmdale, these latest RQ-4 Global Hawk models complete a four aircraft buy by the Air Force and brings the Air Force's total Global Hawk fleet to 33. In August, the Air Force signed an agreement requesting three more Global Hawks. Those aircraft are scheduled for delivery in 2016 and 2017.

Northrop Grumman's HALE UAS series have exceeded more than 130,000 total flight hours. An average of 75 percent of flight hours are in support of combat/operational missions.

Northrop Grumman is a leading global security company providing innovative systems, products and solutions in unmanned systems, cyber, C4ISR, and logistics and modernization to government and commercial customers worldwide.

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17 décembre 2014 3 17 /12 /décembre /2014 17:35
Seoul finalises $657 million Global Hawk purchase

 

17.12.2014 by Craig Hoyle – FG

 

Northrop Grumman has been awarded a contract worth more than $657 million to provide South Korea with a surveillance fleet of RQ-4 Global Hawk unmanned air vehicles.

Detailed by the US Department of Defense in a contract notification announcement dated 16 December, the deal will cover the provision of four Block 30-standard RQ-4B Global Hawks, enhanced integrated sensor suite mission payloads “and the applicable ground control environment elements”.

Work under the Foreign Military Sales contract will conclude by June 2019, the DoD says.

 

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17 novembre 2014 1 17 /11 /novembre /2014 17:20
Northrop to continue support for USAF Global Hawk systems

A USAF RQ-4 Global Hawk unmanned aircraft in flight. photo Bobbi Zapra USAF

 

17 November 2014 airforce-technology.com

 

Northrop Grumman has been awarded a contract to continue the provision of logistics and sustainment services for the US Air Force's (USAF) RQ-4 Global Hawk unmanned aircraft systems (UAS).

 

Awarded by the US Department of Defense, the $306m contract continues an existing contract for Global Hawk maintenance, inventory management, parts procurement and other tasks necessary to ensure the availability of the unmanned platform.

 

In particular, the agreement covers the aircraft as well as mission control elements and forward-operating location support.

 

Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems Global Hawk director Mick Jaggers said: "In a turbulent world, Global Hawk's unparalleled reliability has made it an indispensable asset to the US Air Force.

 

"Our team takes great pride in supporting the warfighter with an aircraft system that is ready and available whenever and wherever it's needed."

 

Powered by an Allison Rolls-Royce AE3007H turbofan engine, the Global Hawk is a high-altitude, long-endurance UAS designed to provide field commanders with high-resolution, near real-time imagery of large geographic areas in support of military, humanitarian and environmental missions.

 

Capable of carrying a range of intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance sensor payloads, the UAS enables commanders to detect moving or stationary targets on the ground, while providing airborne communications and information sharing capabilities to military units in harsh environments.

 

The remotely piloted system has been used by USAF during wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya, in addition to supporting intelligence gathering and reconnaissance efforts after the earthquakes in Haiti and Japan.

 

Global Hawk is also being used by NASA for scientific and environmental research projects.

 

Different variants of Global Hawk have to date flown more than 130,000 flight hours, supporting diverse missions worldwide.

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25 juin 2014 3 25 /06 /juin /2014 17:20
An RQ-4 Global Hawk taxies on the flightline as a U-2 makes its final approach

An RQ-4 Global Hawk taxies on the flightline as a U-2 makes its final approach

 

June 25, 2014: Strategy Page

 

The U.S. Air Force has changed its mind about the RQ-4 Global Hawk UAV. The motivation here is the need to cut costs in the face of a shrinking air force budget. So now the air force is asking Congress for two billion dollars to upgrade some RQ-4s so they can fully replace the versatile, elderly and expensive-to-operate U-2 reconnaissance aircraft. The air force is saving a lot of money by retiring entire types of aircraft (like U-2s and A-10s). The A-10s will be completely replaced by F-16s and smart bombs.

 

For years the air force was dissatisfied with the performance and operating costs of the RQ-4, pointing out that the U-2 was cheaper and, because of better sensors, more useful. But the RQ-4 manufacturer brought down the costs and increased reliability. Despite that criticism from the U.S. Air Force, American aircraft manufacturer Northrop Grumman continued to find customers for its RQ-4. In large part that’s because the RQ-4 has been much improved since 2010. The RQ-4 has become more reliable, efficient and flexible. Several of the new customers (like South Korea and Japan) want to use it for maritime reconnaissance, something the U.S. Navy is already doing. The cost of operating the RQ-4 has also been greatly reduced over three years, from $40,600 an hour to $18,900. That happened largely because there were more RQ-4s in service and each was flying more hours. That spread overhead costs over more flight hours. There was also a sharp reduction (by $14,000 an hour) in contractor support costs, largely brought on by improved aircraft reliability. Another factor driving this decline in costs was the air force threat to get rid of many RQ-4s because it was cheaper, per flight hour, to use the much older manned U-2s. Now that is no longer the case and the air force has backed away from dropping its RQ-4s and instead wants to retire the U-2s instead.

 

Back in 2011 the U.S. Air Force very publically gave up on the RQ-4. This came in the form of an air force announcement that they had stopped buying the RQ-4. Not only that but ten of the thirty-one Block 30 models ordered were cancelled. None of the planned Block 40 aircraft were to be built. Global Hawk remained in production because there were other users who were not as displeased as the air force. The U.S. Navy is buying 68 MQ-4C “Triton” BAMS (Broad Area Maritime Surveillance) models plus the two prototypes. Triton is to enter service by 2017.

 

While the RQ-4 has always been hailed as a revolutionary and successful system, most of the recon and surveillance jobs in the last decade were handled by the more reliable, cheaper, and numerous Predator and Reaper UAVs. Meanwhile, the air force was having more and more problems with the RQ-4, and that led to the public denunciation of the RQ-4 and Northrop Grumman. But as the war on terror dies down and the potential opponents include countries with air defenses, the higher flying RQ-4 becomes more valuable.

 

The 2011 decision was the result of the air force and the manufacturer feuding over design, cost, and quality control issues. The last straw was the unreliability of the new Block 30 models. This renewed Department of Defense threats to cancel the program. But manufacturer Northrop Grumman lobbyists have made sure the key members of Congress knew where Global Hawk components were being built and how many jobs that added up to. While that delayed the RQ-4 Block 30 cancellation it did not stop it. The air force was placated for a while when Northrop Grumman fixed some of the problems (some of which the manufacturer said don't exist or didn't matter). The Block 30 was supposed to be good to go, but the air force was not convinced and decided that Block 30 was just more broken promises. Congress was also tired of all the feuding and being caught between Northrup lobbyists and exasperated air force generals. Then there was political decision to cut the defense budget over the next decade. Something had to go.

 

You'd think the RQ-4 would be somewhat perfected by 2011. It was closer to that than many believed and is now considered a lot more reliable. Development of the RQ-4 began in the 1990s, as a DARPA research project. By 2006, per-aircraft costs were twenty-five percent over the original price. By 2007, production schedules had slipped as well. The air force and Northrop Grumman disagreed over what caused these problems. The air force blamed it on poor management. Northrop Grumman said it's all about dealing with complex technology. The air force pointed out that the RQ-4 was not high tech. The sensors often are but they are added to the aircraft after they came off the production line. Northrop Grumman continued to stonewall the air force and showed no signs of making any basic changes. Some air force procurement officials believed Northrop Grumman diverted resources to foreign customers, while taking advantage of the fact that there was no other supplier the air force could go to for long range UAVs. There was a lot of bad blood between the user and the manufacturer, which is not a good thing.

 

There were sixteen of the RQ-4A ("Block 10") aircraft built, fourteen for the U.S. Air Force, and two for the U.S. Navy. The later models were the larger RQ-4B (block 20, 30, and 40). Production has been consistently behind what Northrop Grumman had earlier promised. The air force originally planned to buy over forty Block 30s and wanted to get them faster, and with the reliability problems fixed. That did not work out before the war on terror largely ended and with it the big defense budgets.

 

In 2011, the air force transferred its remaining seven early model (Block 10) RQ-4s to other government agencies. These UAVs began flying nearly a decade ago and each has spent, on average, some three-thousand hours in the air. Some have spent over seven-thousand hours in the air, while others have mostly stayed on the ground. On average, these Block 10 aircraft flew once a week. But some ninety percent of hours flown were in combat operations. Subsequent models (Block 20, 30, and 40) had greater carrying capacity and reliability. Many payloads (various sensors) are designed for the larger models. But the Block 10 is still useful for civilian missions (disaster monitoring, border patrol, and all sorts of research).

 

Things had started off on a more promising note. The RQ-4 was still in development on September 11, 2001, but was rushed into action. The first production RQ-4A was not delivered until August, 2003. Although the RQ-4 could stay in the air for up to forty-two hours, all of them had only amassed about four-thousand flight hours by 2004. But most of those four-thousand hours, which were originally planned to involve testing of a new aircraft, were instead used to perform combat missions. Global Hawk also got to fly under difficult conditions, something an aircraft still being developed would not do.

 

In 2008, an RQ-4A Global Hawk made the first non-stop crossing of the Pacific, flying twelve-thousand kilometers from California to Australia in twenty-three hours. The Global Hawk has previously crossed the Pacific in several hops but it always had the endurance to do it non-stop. In the last decade RQ-4s have flown over fifty-five-thousand hours, most of that combat missions, and many of them from Persian Gulf bases. The latest models can fly twenty hour missions, land for refueling and maintenance, and be off in four hours for another twenty hours in the sky. But the reliability issues with the Block 30 made the longer missions infrequent. Otherwise, the RQ-4 has been very reliable, with aircraft being ready for action ninety-five percent of the time. An RQ-4 can survey about four-thousand square kilometers an hour.

 

The U.S. Air Force pays over $150 million for a fully equipped RQ-4, but only about 35 percent of that is for the UAV itself. Include payload (sensors and communications) and development costs and it nearly triples. The B version is about ten percent larger (wingspan of 42.3 meters/131 feet, and 15.5 meters/48 feet long) than the A model and can carry an additional two tons of equipment. To support that, there's a new generator that produces 150 percent more electrical power. The B version is a lot more reliable. Early A models tended to fail and crash at the rate of once every thousand flight hours, mostly because of design flaws. It was those flaws and delays in fixing them that got the air force so angry. The first three RQ-4Bs entered service in 2006, with some of those flaws still present, and it took over five years to clear that up.

 

At thirteen tons the Global Hawk is the size of a commuter airliner (like the Embraer ERJ 145) but costs more than twice as much. Global Hawk can be equipped with much more powerful, and expensive, sensors than other UAVs. These sensors comprise most of the cost of the aircraft. The spy satellite quality sensors (especially AESA radar) are usually worth the expense because they enable the UAV, flying at over 20,000 meters (60,000 feet), to get a sharp picture of all the territory it can see from that altitude.  

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17 mai 2014 6 17 /05 /mai /2014 20:45
Air Force assisting search for missing girls in Nigeria

 

 

May. 16, 2014 - By Brian Everstine - .airforcetimes.com

 

The Air Force is flying manned MC-12W Liberty and unmanned RQ-4 Global Hawk surveillance sorties over Nigeria to assist in locating more than 200 girls kidnapped by militants.

 

The Nigerian government requested the flights, and the Defense Department is “focused on helping them find the school girls,” Pentagon spokesman Army Lt. Col Myles Caggins said Thursday.

 

“We will continue to deepen and widen our efforts in assisting them to locate these girls,” Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said the same day during a visit to Saudi Arabia. “I have seen no intelligence come back that I’m aware of that shows that we’ve located those girls.”

 

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8 avril 2014 2 08 /04 /avril /2014 06:50
photo Alan Radecki Northrop Grumman

photo Alan Radecki Northrop Grumman

If the British government decides to rebuild its maritime patrol capabilities it may consider an acquisition of the Triton, a maritime version of the Global Hawk UAV. (Northrop Grumman)

 

Apr. 7, 2014 - By ANDREW CHUTER – Defense News

 

LONDON — Britain’s Ministry of Defence (MoD) is dispatching a team to train on Northrop Grumman’s MQ-4C Triton UAV in the run-up to a possible decision next year on whether to re-establish a maritime patrol capability.

 

Responding to a parliamentary question April 3, the government said that four personnel are “scheduled to train on the MQ-4C Triton during June and August, 2014.”

 

The Triton is a maritime version of the Global Hawk remotely piloted surveillance vehicle. The high-altitude, long-endurance aircraft is in its flight-test phase ahead of deliveries to the US Navy.

 

The British government said the team will be trained at the US Navy’s Patuxent River Naval Air Station in Maryland.

 

Defence Secretary Philip Hammond has said on a number of occasions that unmanned aircraft could meet at least part of the requirement for a future maritime patrol aircraft capability if the 2015 Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR) resurrects the requirements.

 

The government controversially axed Britain’s maritime patrol aircraft capability as part of a budget-cutting exercise in the 2010 SDSR when BAE Systems’ long-delayed and over-budget Nimrod MRA4 program was canceled before the aircraft entered service.

 

Two demonstration versions of the Triton are scheduled to be delivered to Patuxent River in the next few weeks, having last month completed initial flight testing.

 

Triton has already been ordered by the US Navy to operate alongside Boeing P-8 Poseidon MPAs. Australia has also said it intends to buy the machine to work with the P-8s it has on order.

 

Northrop displayed a mock-up of the high-altitude Triton at a Royal Air Force show at its Waddington, England, base last year.

 

The British parliamentary answer also revealed that 20 personnel have been embedded with US Navy P-8 operations as part of a program to retain crew skills until a decision is made on whether to recreate a maritime patrol capability.

 

The program, known as Seedcorn, has also seen smaller numbers of personnel embedded with Australian, Canadian and New Zealand maritime patrol forces.

 

An MoD spokeswoman declined to elaborate on why the British personnel were being trained on Triton, but said it is part of a wider effort to develop capabilities.

 

“The Seedcorn program provides a valuable opportunity to UK personnel for training, specialization and exposure within the maritime environment while working with our allies to develop our capabilities. Triton forms only one element of this program and only a small, select number of UK personnel are involved in work, which operates from Patuxent River,” the spokeswoman said.

 

Representatives from Northrop declined to comment

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4 avril 2014 5 04 /04 /avril /2014 07:20
Global Hawk Expands Satellite Communications Capability

 

BEALE AIR FORCE BASE – April 3, 2014 – Northrop Grumman

 

Demonstration at Beale Air Force Base proves system can send data independent of command and control

 

The U.S. Air Force RQ-4 Global Hawk unmanned aircraft system (UAS) has completed a series of ground and air demonstrations at Beale Air Force Base, Calif., expanding the adaptability of the Global Hawk system to use an additional Satellite Communications (SATCOM) link to improve the transfer of mission data.

 

At the request of the U.S. Air Force Air Combat Command, Northrop Grumman worked with Air Force partners to demonstrate that Global Hawk is compatible with different SATCOM architectures with no changes to the aircraft's hardware, software or payload. Taking place from Jan. 13-15, the demonstration highlighted a unique split link capability for Global Hawk that allows it to send mission data through a satellite link that is independent of the link used for command and control.

 

"This powerful demonstration illustrates Global Hawk's unique versatility," said Alfredo Ramirez, director and chief architect of Northrop Grumman's HALE Enterprise. "We're ecstatic with Global Hawk's ability to provide intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance products to operational end-users via multiple paths."

 

The combat-proven Global Hawk has logged more than 110,000 flight hours and carries a variety of intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance sensor payloads to allow military commanders to gather near real-time images and uses radar to detect moving or stationary targets on the ground or at sea. The system supports antiterrorism, antipiracy, humanitarian assistance, disaster relief, airborne communications and information sharing missions.

 

Northrop Grumman is a leading global security company providing innovative systems, products and solutions in unmanned systems, cyber, C4ISR, and logistics and modernization to government and commercial customers worldwide. Please visit www.northropgrumman.com for more information.

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5 décembre 2013 4 05 /12 /décembre /2013 08:20
Northrop starts production of Global Hawk UAS for NATO

 

MOSS POINT, Miss., Dec. 4 (UPI)

 

NATO's first Global Hawk unmanned surveillance vehicle is starting to take shape on a Northrop Grumman production line, the company reports.

 

The NATO Alliance Ground Surveillance Block 40 Global Hawk has a cruise speed of 357 miles per hour, a range of 8,700 miles, a service ceiling of 60,000 feet and a flight endurance of more than 30 hours.

 

Once operational with NATO it will provide near real-time terrestrial and maritime situational awareness information throughout the full range of NATO military and civil-military missions.

 

NATO has ordered five of the aircraft, which will feature enhancements to meet the alliance's requirements for performing intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance missions, Northrop said.

 

"The variety of sensors and ability to support a wide range of missions will revolutionize how NATO collects ISR," said Jim Edge, general manager of NATO's Air, Ground Surveillance Management Agency. "It was an honor to witness the start of production for the first NATO aircraft, and I'm excited at being one step closer to delivering the AGS system."

 

Production was kicked off with a ceremony at Northrop's facility in Mississippi, which was attended by representatives of the alliance, state government officials, community leaders and Northrop employees.

 

"Mississippi excels at advanced manufacturing, and the sophisticated aircraft that will be built at Northrop Grumman's Moss Point facility are a testament to the quality of the area's workforce," Gov. Phil Bryant said at the event. "Our state is also building a strong presence in the aerospace industry, and this operation will certainly bolster our reputation."

 

The NATO AGS system will be equipped with the multi-mode, Multi-Platform Radar Technology Insertion airborne ground surveillance radar sensor to provide all-weather, day or night intelligence. The system a suite of network-centric enabled line-of-sight and beyond-line-of-sight long-range, wide-band data links.

 

It also features European-sourced ground assets to provide in-theater support to commanders of deployed forces. Mobile ground stations, for interface between the AGS core system and a wide range of interoperable NATO and national command, control, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance systems are also part of the system.

 

"With the ability to fly up to 60,000 feet and for more than 30 hours, the NATO AGS system is uniquely suited to support NATO missions worldwide," said Jim Culmo, vice president, High-Altitude, Long Endurance Enterprise, Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems.

 

Northrop said NATO is acquiring the system with 15 nations participating in the program. They are: Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Germany, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Norway, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia and the United States.

 

Companies participating in the project with Northrop include Cassidian, Selex ES, Kongsberg and defense companies from participating countries.

 

Details of the production/delivery schedule for the first and subsequent Global Hawks was not disclosed.

Northrop starts production of Global Hawk UAS for NATO

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22 novembre 2013 5 22 /11 /novembre /2013 12:20
Block 40 Global Hawk goes to 'war': USAF

 

Nov. 22, 2013 by Jon Hemmerdinger – FG

 

Washington DC - Northrop Grumman’s unmanned RQ-4 Block 40 Global Hawk has gone to “war” for the first time, according to the US Air Force.

 

The service announced today that on 19 September a Block 40, which has synthetic-aperture radar and ground-moving target indicators, departed Grand Forks Air Force Base in North Dakota on a mission that marked the “first time this specific model has been deployed into war.”

 

That comment was made by the 69th Reconnaissance Group’s Col Lawrence Spinetta in an article written by the public affairs division of the air force’s 319th Air Base Wing at Grand Forks.

 

The public affairs office declined to say where the aircraft went and did not provide additional details about the flight.

 

The office adds that the announcement needed to be cleared by high-level defense officials, which is why it was released more than one month after the flight.

 

Global Hawks can fly 12,300nm (22,780km), and the air force flies them on missions from the US to the Middle East.

 

“Any time we send a jet out of Grand Forks and 24 hours later it arrives right on center line... in the Middle East, that amazes me,” Spinetta told Flightglobal last week during a media briefing at the base.

 

“Lack of a manned pilot onboard is a strength,” Spinetta added.

 

Block 20s, which fly communications relay missions, have been used in Afghanistan to transmit messages over mountains, Spinetta added.

 

Block 40s have a multi-platform radar technology insertion programme (MP-RTIP), an air-to-surface radar that provides wide-area surveillance of stationary and moving targets, according to Northrop’s website.

 

The aircraft has a wingspan of 131ft (40m), length of 47.6ft (14.5m) and a gross takeoff weight of 32,250lb (14,628kg), says the manufacturer.

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20 novembre 2013 3 20 /11 /novembre /2013 17:20
US Air Force Drops Sensor Improvements on New Global Hawks

Airmen work on an RQ-4 Global Hawk after it returned to Beale Air Force Base, Calif. The US Air Force has decided not to pursue an adapter that would improve the Block 30's sensor suite. (US Air Force)

 

Nov. 20, 2013 - By BRIAN EVERSTINE – Defense news

 

The US Air Force will not buy a “universal payload adapter” to attach sensors from the U-2 to a variant of the unmanned RQ-4 Global Hawk, another sign that the service is not interested in keeping the brand-new planes in the sky.

 

The Block 30 variant of the Global Hawk, a massive unmanned aircraft designed for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, has been repeatedly targeted for cuts by the Air Force. The service planned to move the aircraft straight from the production line to the boneyard in 2013, but that move was blocked by Congress.

 

The Block 30’s sensor suite is not as capable as the U-2, and Global Hawk builder Northrop Grumman has been designing an adapter to attach the superior system to the unmanned aircraft. The Air Force, however, does not intend to use the adapter, said Maj. Ryan Simms, the chief of intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance and remotely pilot aircraft policy in the headquarters Air Force executive action group.

 

Northrop Grumman officials said earlier this year that they are working through internal research and development on the adapter. Tom Vice, head of Northrop’s Aerospace Systems sector, told reporters in August that it was a “mature technology.”

 

The Air Force called the adapter “feasible,” and said it would cost about $487 million. It would take three years to develop and test, followed by another two years of production, according to an April report sent to congressional defense committees.

 

The adapter would attach the Optical Bar Camera or Senior Year Electro-Optical Reconnaissance System-2b sensors, in addition to Airborne Signals Intelligence Payload.

 

Simms told Air Force Times on Tuesday that budget restrictions will prevent the service from moving forward with the adapter.

 

Despite their uncertain future, Block 30s are currently flying humanitarian aid and military missions, Simms said. One Global Hawk in the Philippines has flown 50 hours and taken 300 pictures, he said.

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12 novembre 2013 2 12 /11 /novembre /2013 18:20
Three More Global Hawks To Be Built For USAF

 

November 8, 2013. David Pugliese - Defence Watch

 

News release from Northrop Grumman:

 

The U.S. Air Force has awarded Northrop Grumman Corporation (NYSE:NOC) a $114 million advance procurement contract in preparation to build three more high-flying RQ-4 Global Hawk unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) and associated sensors. The combat-proven intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) aircraft allows military commanders to receive high-resolution imagery, survey vast geographic regions and pinpoint targets on the ground.

 

This contract provides for advance procurement of long lead items associated with three Block 30 aircraft, including three enhanced integrated sensor suites, three airborne signals intelligence payload (ASIP) and two ASIP retrofit kits to be installed on previously purchased aircraft. Work under this contract is expected to be completed in 2015.

 

“Global Hawk’s ability to fly more than 30 hours at high altitudes while gathering multiple types of intelligence data makes it extremely valuable to field commanders who need near real-time information,” said George Guerra, Northrop Grumman’s vice president for Global Hawk UAS. “This award is especially important because it reaffirms the Air Force’s commitment to this safe and cost-effective system, which has been supporting our warfighters for more than 15 years in the U.S. and abroad.”

 

Combined with Global Hawk’s ability to fly for long periods at altitudes up to 60,000 feet, the aircraft’s 12,300 nautical mile range makes the system ideally suited to take on many different ISR missions.

 

Global Hawk can carry a variety of ISR sensor payloads that allow military commanders to gather imagery, use radar to detect moving or stationary targets on the ground, and provide airborne communications and information sharing capabilities to military units in harsh environments.

 

The UAS has logged more than 100,000 flight hours and has been used over battlefields in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya. The system has also supported ISR efforts following the devastating earthquakes that struck Haiti and Japan.

 

In addition, NASA has been using Global Hawks for scientific and environmental research, recently flying over two hurricanes in September 2013 as part of a broader project studying how tropical storms develop over the Atlantic Ocean.

 

Northrop Grumman is a leading global security company providing innovative systems, products and solutions in unmanned systems, cyber, C4ISR, and logistics and modernization to government and commercial customers worldwide.

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25 septembre 2013 3 25 /09 /septembre /2013 11:20
USAF Says Global Hawk Is Safest Aircraft

September 24, 2013 defense-aerospace.com

(Source: US Air Force; issued Sept. 23, 2013)

 

100K & Going: Global Hawk Makes Mark As Safest Platform

 

GRAND FORKS AFB, N.D. --- Although the days of the bombers and tankers are long gone, Airmen at Grand Forks Air Force Base, N.D., are still finding ways to make Air Force history thanks to the Global Hawk mission.

 

The Northrop Grumman Corporation recently announced that its high-altitude, long-endurance unmanned aircraft systems achieved 100,000 flight hours Sept. 5.

 

News of the milestone was well-received by the leadership and members of the 69th Reconnaissance Group, the unit at Grand Forks AFB directly in charge of conducting Global Hawk missions.

 

"This milestone is something in which those of us involved in the Global Hawk mission take great pride," said Col. Lawrence Spinetta, 69th RG commander.

 

According to the Air Force Safety Center, Kirtland AFB, N.M., approximately 85 percent of the 100,000 flight hours for this aircraft were logged by U.S. Air Force Global Hawks. Credit for the remaining flight hours was split among the NASA, German and U.S. Navy versions of the aircraft.

 

The Global Hawk also has the safest record of any fighter, bomber or reconnaissance aircraft in the Air Force's active inventory.

 

"The safety record of the U.S. Air Force Global Hawk fleet is remarkable, especially given the fact that the system was rushed to combat and flew 75 percent of its first 100,000 hours supporting our warfighters in Afghanistan and elsewhere," Spinetta said. "These figures prove the reliability of unmanned aircraft technology. More importantly, it's testament to the professionalism of our Airmen and the pride they take in accomplishing our mission."

 

The Global Hawk is aptly named. Every day, RQ-4s circle the globe, providing critical strategic intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance to six combatant commands.

 

"The jet's long endurance is a significant combat force multiplier," Spinetta said.

 

The RQ-4, which can fly for upwards of 30 hours nonstop, has the ability to cover almost half the circumference of the world without refueling. That capability makes it a key contributor to the global vigilance, global reach, and global power of the U.S. Air Force.

 

Spinetta reflected on the recent aviation milestone and contemplated what it means for the history of the Air Force.

 

He told members of the 69th RG that their hard work is "the realization of an Air Force prophecy" by Gen. Henry H. "Hap" Arnold. As the commanding general for the U.S. Army Air Force in 1945, Arnold said, "We have just won a war with a lot of heroes flying around in planes. The next war may be fought by airplanes with no men in them at all...Take everything you've learned about aviation in war, throw it out the window, and let's go to work on tomorrow's aviation."

 

Members of the 69th RG will receive patches from Northrop Grumman commemorating the milestone.

 

"Some people might refer to the patch as badge of honor, however, we know the real honor is knowing we are doing an excellent job protecting our warriors and our nation," Spinetta said. "That's exactly what we will continue to do."

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16 septembre 2013 1 16 /09 /septembre /2013 11:20
Photo Northrop Grumman

Photo Northrop Grumman

September 13, 2013 defense-aerospace.com

(Source: U.S Department of Defense; issued September 12, 2013)

 

Pentagon Contract Announcement

 

Northrop Grumman Corp., Aerospace Systems Sector, San Diego, Calif., has been awarded a $169,851,218 (estimated) cost-plus-fixed-fee modification (PZ0001) on a definitization of an undefinitized contract action (FA8528-13-C-0005) for contract logistics support for the RQ-4 Global Hawk.

 

The contractor shall provide all logistics support activities which includes fielded air vehicles, engines, payloads, ground segments and support segments.

 

Work will be performed at San Diego, Calif., and is expected to be completed by Sept. 30, 2014. This is a sole source acquisition. Fiscal 2013 operations and maintenance funds in the amount of $76,276,405 are being obligated at time of award.

 

Air Force Life Cycle Management Center/WIKBA, Robins Air Force Base, Ga., is the contracting activity.

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10 septembre 2013 2 10 /09 /septembre /2013 11:20
MQ-4C BAMS  photo Northrop Grumman

MQ-4C BAMS photo Northrop Grumman

Sept. 10, 2013 defense-aerospace.com

(Source: US Department of Defense; issued Sept. 6, 2013)

 

Northrop Grumman Corp., San Diego, Calif., is being awarded a not-to-exceed $9,981,663 modification to a previously awarded cost-plus-fixed-fee contract (N00019-12-C-0117) for additional operations and maintenance services in support of the Broad Area Maritime Surveillance - Demonstrator, Unmanned Aircraft System, also known as the Global Hawk Maritime - Demonstrator.

 

The services include manpower to increase BAMS-D operational tempo from the current nine maritime intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance missions per month to a sustained level of 15 missions per month.

 

Work will be performed in Patuxent River, Md. (70 percent), and outside continental United States (30 percent), and is expected to be completed in May 2014. Fiscal 2013 operations and maintenance, Navy funds in the amount of $3,000,000 are being obligated on this award, all of which will expire at the end of the current fiscal year.

 

The Naval Air Systems Command, Patuxent River, Md., is the contracting activity.

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26 août 2013 1 26 /08 /août /2013 11:35
photo USAF

photo USAF

August 24, 2013 By  Zachary Keck - Flashpoints

 

Japan will deploy the Global Hawk unmanned reconnaissance aircraft starting in fiscal 2015, the local daily Yomiuri Shimbun reported on Friday, citing unnamed government sources.

According to the report, Japan’s Defense Ministry plans on including 200 million yen (US$ 2 million) in next year’s budget for the “research and study expenses” involved in introducing the Global Hawk. The budget will also contain a provision mandating that the drone be deployed by 2015.

Yomiuri Shimbun said the government was in the process of selecting a base for the reconnaissance aircraft. According to the newspaper’s sources, the lead contender so far is the U.S. Air Force’s (USAF) Misawa Air Base in Aomori Prefecture way up in the northern part of Japan.

This would place it far away from the disputed Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands, although this wouldn’t be a huge obstacle to overcome as the Global Hawk can fly at an altitude of 18 km for more than 30 uninterrupted hours by some estimates. Others claim that the Global Hawk is “basically an unmanned U-2” that operates at between 15 km and 19 km and boasts “loiter time on station of 24+ hours.”

The RQ-4 Global Hawk made its first test flight in 1998 and entered development and limited production in 2001. The U.S. Air Force describes the aircraft as follows:

“A high-altitude, long-endurance unmanned aircraft system with an integrated sensor suite that provides intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, or ISR, capability worldwide. Global Hawk's mission is to provide a broad spectrum of ISR collection capability to support joint combatant forces in worldwide peacetime, contingency and wartime operations.”

With regards to radar and sensory imagery, the Global Hawk is equipped with Raytheon’s Enhanced Integrated Sensor Suite (EISS). The EISS includes “cloud-penetrating synthetic aperture radar (SAR) antenna with a ground moving target indicator (GMTI), a high resolution electro-optical (EO) digital camera and an infrared (IR) sensor.” 

Germany has its own version of the Global Hawk, which it operates under the name, EuroHawk. The U.S. Navy has a UAV under developed called the MQ-4C Triton, which is based on the Global Hawk.

As James Hardy reported in The Diplomat back in January, South Korea is also pushing ahead with the purchase of four Global Hawks, although the prohibitive cost of the aircraft may ultimately doom this effort.

High cost overruns have led the U.S. Air Force to significantly scale back its procurement plans for the Global Hawk, and further reductions could still be in the offing. Instead, the USAF will continue to use the U-2 manned aircraft.

Japan’s deployment of the Global Hawk should in theory significantly enhance its surveillance capabilities over the Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands. Indeed, in explaining the rationale behind Japan’s decision to deploy the Global Hawk, Yomiuri Shimbun said “The government judged it necessary to enhance deterrence with unmanned reconnaissance aircraft as there has been a surge in the number of cases in which the ASDF [Air Self-Defense Forces] has scrambled fighter jets in response to moves by China’s military aircraft.”

At the same time, the newspaper said Japan’s ASDF would jointly operate the drone with the USAF. The USAF, however, is already known to fly Global Hawks over Japan, and some have even speculated that the U.S. military has quietly allowed the ASDF to temporarily use them at times.

It was not clear from the Yomiuri Shimbun article how cost-sharing would work for the joint project, or how the joint operation would actually work. For example, it wasn’t clear from the report if Japan actually planned to purchase one of the aircraft itself, although Kyodo News reported last month that Tokyo was considering this option. The possibility of Japan buying between one and three Global Hawk drones has been floated elsewhere, and Chinese media said earlier this week that Japan is considering buying three Global Hawks from the U.S. over the next four years, although the sourcing of this report wasn’t entirely clear.

The Yomiuri Shimbun report also said that the defense budget would include four million yen for the research and study expenses for the deployment of a new early warning airplane by FY 2015, 1.3 billion yen for two amphibious vehicles and 1.7 billion to permanently station surface-to-air Patriot Advanced Capability-3 missile defense system in Tokyo. Currently, Japan moves PAC-3 systems into Tokyo only during crisis periods with North Korea.

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23 août 2013 5 23 /08 /août /2013 12:50
Euro Hawk décollage de la BA De de Manching 11.01.2013 photo EADS - CAssidian

Euro Hawk décollage de la BA De de Manching 11.01.2013 photo EADS - CAssidian

22 Aug 2013 By Zach Rosenberg – FG

 

Washington DC - Germany has denied that negotiations are ongoing in an attempt to salvage Northrop Grumman's Euro Hawk unmanned air vehicle (UAV) deal, nixed in May over airspace concerns.

 

The German ministry of defence expressed "surprise" with comments by Northrop vice-president Tom Vice, who spoke to reporters on 20 August.

 

"We're continuing to work with the Germans to find a solution on this programme," Vice said. "We continue to have discussions, but the thing we continue to point out is that the capability continues to match their needs. The programme is going extremely well we're making a lot of progress, we're having discussions, we'll see where that ends up."

 

The ministry is seeking clarification from involved companies.

 

The programme, meant to supply surveillance capabilities to Germany using four modified RQ-4 Global Hawks, is formally scheduled to end in September. The programme's cancellation was largely a result of Germany's airspace regulators, expressing concern over integrating UAVs routinely into airspace.

 

"The Global Hawk programme has 97% of its life ahead of it. It's a maturing programme," Vice said.

 

In the USA, Global Hawk has its own problems. Citing high costs and sub-par performance, the US Air Force is seeking to retire the Global Hawk Block 30, originally meant to replace the aging Lockheed U-2 in its surveillance role, while continuing operations of the Block 40.

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21 août 2013 3 21 /08 /août /2013 11:20
Depuis le 28 juillet, 38 personnes sont mortes dans des attaques de drones, selon un bilan établi auprès de sources tribales, militaires et de l'administration locale au Yémen.

Depuis le 28 juillet, 38 personnes sont mortes dans des attaques de drones, selon un bilan établi auprès de sources tribales, militaires et de l'administration locale au Yémen.

21.08.2013 Le Monde.fr

 

L'armée américaine peine à former suffisamment de pilotes de drones, faute de volontaires pour cette spécialité, constate un colonel de l'Air Force dans une étude rédigée pour le compte de la Brookings Institution, un centre de réflexion de Washington. Le manque s'expliquerait par des perspectives de promotion moindre que pour les pilotes "traditionnels" et des "exigences opérationnelles" éprouvantes.

 

En 2012, l'Air Force était censée entraîner 150 pilotes à diriger depuis le sol les Predators, Reapers et autres Global Hawk. Seuls 82 % des postes ont été pourvus, d'après le rapport. Le quota de 1 129 pilotes "traditionnels", par contre, a été rempli sans problème.

 

Suite de l’article

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26 juin 2013 3 26 /06 /juin /2013 10:20
The Global Hawk has provided high-altitude, long-endurance ISR for the Air Force since the late 1990s, but the service says it no longer needs the unmanned aircraft. (Air Force)

The Global Hawk has provided high-altitude, long-endurance ISR for the Air Force since the late 1990s, but the service says it no longer needs the unmanned aircraft. (Air Force)

Jun. 24, 2013 - By ARAM ROSTON- Defense News

 

June is the start of the rainy season in the South Pacific, six months of storms that come in fast and unpredictable. And when the wind starts blowing, that takes its toll on U.S. intelligence-gathering far off in North Korea.

 

A substantial amount of the intel on the Hermit Kingdom comes from the three massive Global Hawk unmanned surveillance planes based at Andersen Air Force Base in Guam. Because of special flight restrictions, the Global Hawks can’t fly over thunderstorms, nor, without a way to see the clouds ahead, can they go around them. So whenever a hint of bad weather arose on the route Global Hawk was assigned last year from Guam, the missions were canceled. Last year, the UAVs were grounded for an entire month, says a source with knowledge of the operation.

 

This susceptibility to South Pacific cyclones is adding new energy to the political hurricane raging in Washington over the future of the expensive UAVs.

 

It’s been a year and a half since the Air Force said it no longer needs the Global Hawk. The service argued that the UAVs, each built for more than $200 million, don’t do their jobs as well as the time-tested U-2 manned spy plane. So the Air Force wants to take the entire fleet of 18 Global Hawks and park them in the “boneyard” — the aircraft storage facility at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz. That’s the functional equivalent of throwing 135 tons of the world’s most advanced robotic flying machines into the trash heap.

 

Now the battle lines are forming in what may be an epic contracting war. On the one side, swinging hard, is Global Hawk-maker Northrop Grumman. It has some powerful arguments, and it has members of Congress who say the Air Force needs to fall in line. On the other side is the Air Force, fighting to keep the U-2, which was built by Lockheed Martin.

 

'ESSENTIAL TO NATIONAL SECURITY'

 

At 70,000 feet, a U-2 pilot flying northwest along the boundary of North Korean airspace can turn his head to the right, and through the visor of his spacesuit he will see the silhouette of Earth’s curvature. Then he will see a silent green phosphorescent flash before the sky suddenly goes dark.

 

They call that flash “the terminator.” No U-2 pilot ever forgets it. Until just two years ago, the U-2 program itself — the workhorse of high-altitude intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance for 60 years — was due to be terminated, too.

 

For a time, the Global Hawk versus U-2 debate revolved around age. The U-2, its critics said, was of a different era, before UAVs. After all, any pilot flying the U-2 now wasn’t even born when the program started back in 1955.

 

But now, as one Air Force pilot points out, “This is not your grandfather’s U-2.” For example, today’s U-2S jets have pressurized cockpits, although the pilots still wear spacesuits in case anything goes wrong.

 

Lockheed Martin’s Robert Dunn said the U-2S has a long way to go before it needs to be decommissioned. “The airplanes we are flying today are certified to 75,000 flight hours. The average airframe is 14,000,” he said.

 

If the U-2 is the aging champion, then in the other corner of the ring is the upstart Global Hawk. A feat of modern engineering, the autonomous plane can fly for 32 hours straight when conditions are right. That’s far longer than the U-2, though not as high and with a smaller payload.

 

Ironically, the now-costly Global Hawk program was birthed during the cutbacks of the Clinton years. The Air Force was enthusiastic about its huge, high-flying UAV, and it pushed for more and more capacity for the planes. The first operational lot, the Block 10s, couldn’t carry enough weight, so the next generation was bigger and more ambitious. It was about more sensors, more power, more payload.

 

Initially pitched as a $35 million aircraft, costs ballooned over the years by 284 percent, according to the Congressional Research Service. Much of that was due to the Air Force’s shifting requirements. (It’s now estimated at about $220 million per plane including development costs.)

 

The Air Force, for a time, was the Global Hawk’s biggest cheerleader, although the history has been complex and sometimes contradictory.

 

In early 2011 for example, the Defense Department’s director of operational test and evaluation said “the system was not operationally effective for conducting near-continuous, persistent ISR operations.”

 

Then, in June 2011, shortly before the Global Hawk was fielded, Air Force officials certified the project as “essential to national security.” It was meant to ensure that Congress continued to fund the program, but the proclamation would begin to haunt the service just months later.

 

BONEYARD

 

In January 2012, the Air Force announced a drastic turnaround: It would terminate the Global Hawk program.

 

It provoked a firestorm — and a heavy public advocacy campaign on Capitol Hill by those who support the plane. Like many major modern weapons, its subcontractors are widely distributed across the United States, ensuring a broad base of political support. Northrop Grumman’s website notes that all but 15 states manufacture some part of the Global Hawk.

 

Experts were confounded that the Air Force had changed its mind so quickly.

 

And Congress put its foot down.

 

In the 2013 National Defense Authorization Act signed earlier this year, Congress told the Air Force it would have to fly the Global Hawks it had already (16 plus two being built) through the year 2014. The service “shall maintain the operational capability of each RQ-4 Block 30 Global Hawk unmanned aircraft system belonging to the Air Force or delivered to the Air Force.”

 

And to make sure no Global Hawk went on to the boneyard, the act was specific: No money “may be obligated or expended to retire, prepare to retire, or place in storage an RQ-4 Block 30 Global Hawk unmanned aircraft system.”

 

All of which sets the stage for the current conflict on the Hill.

 

Meanwhile, the 2013 Defense Appropriations Act went further. The service had resisted ordering new planes, on the assumption that by the time they were delivered, they’d be going right to the boneyard. Now the Air Force was told to go order three of the planes that had previously been budgeted for in 2012. “The Secretary of the Air Force shall obligate and expend funds previously appropriated,” for the plane.

 

But the Air Force has resisted. As another officer said, “Why are they making us spend money on something we don’t want or need?”

 

That attitude has irked some Northrop Grumman supporters on Capitol Hill.

 

In May, Rep. James Moran, D-Va., and Rep. Buck McKeon, R-Calif., wrote a stinging letter to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel demanding that the Air Force do what it was told.

 

“The Air Force has continued to ignore clear Congressional intent,” they said.

 

And the House Armed Services Committee in June voted for a new defense authorization bill that would force the Air Force to use the Global Hawks until 2016

 

'HOMESICK ANGEL'

 

Here’s a side-by-side comparison of the two platforms:

 

Power. The U-2’s engine, with 17,000 pounds of thrust, can push the plane beyond 65,000 feet within a half hour. “It climbs like a homesick angel,” said a U-2 pilot. The Global Hawk, powered by an engine with just 7,500 pounds of thrust, can take four hours to reach its ceiling of 60,000 feet, critics say.

 

Endurance. Global Hawk is the hands-down winner. It can fly up to 32 hours before returning to base. Some say that’s what matters. “This is no time to be getting rid of your long-range, long-endurance assets,” said Rebecca Grant, an analyst who has done work for Northrop Grumman. The U-2 is stretching it to fly 14 hours; more typical flights last 10. But its defenders note that the manned plane can be based closer to the action, say, in South Korea, where flight restrictions bar unmanned aircraft.

 

Altitude. Here, U-2 is the king, with a publicly disclosed ceiling of 70,000 and a true ceiling somewhere about 75,000 feet. Global Hawk tops out at 60,000 feet. For the Air Force, this has become the central issue. First, the U-2 gets above the weather. The worst storm in the world is “just fireworks below,” said a pilot. But the other issue is visibility. Simple geometry allows the U-2 to see farther into enemy territory than the Global Hawk. That really makes a difference. A ceiling of 60,000 feet versus 70,000 doesn’t sound like much but look at it this way: The main job of the plane in the near future will be flying over the borders of countries like China and North Korea from international airspace. The Air Force likes to see 80 or 100 miles into adversaries’ territory, and the U-2’s added height lets it do that.

 

Sensors. That’s what it’s all about. At first glance, the Global Hawk has the edge. It carries three sensors for its intelligence missions, and the U-2 carries only two. On top of that, the Global Hawk can switch in midflight between electro-optical and synthentic aperture radar. “To have the ability for a single weapons system to carry a SAR radar, electro-optical package, and SIGINT package,” said Tom Vice, Northrop Grumman’s president of Aerospace Systems, “it allows to you to fuse all three different types of intelligence products together at the same time.”

 

But the Air Force says the U-2 has a far better electro-optical sensor that gives it a hands-down win in the category. In a report to Congress this spring, the Air Force flatly said that “the current U-2 sensors are superior to those of the GH.” Key to that is a camera called SYERS II (Senior Year Electro-optic Reconnaissance System) manufactured by UTC Aerospace. It’s multispectral, unlike the Global Hawk’s camera, and it sees farther.

 

Price. The U-2s were all built years ago. It’s a bit like owning a 2000 Honda Accord — it’s already paid for, it will keep on going and it drives great. The Global Hawks, on the other hand, are still coming off the production line. But Northrop Grumman argues that most of the development costs have already been spent anyway, and the kinks of building a new system have only recently been ironed out. The Air Force says at this point that it is just spending good money on a system that doesn’t have what it takes.

 

As for operating costs, they are equivalent — $33,500 per hour. But as Northrop Grumman points out, the Global Hawk doesn’t need training flights and requires fewer takeoffs and landings. Even the Air Force, in a recent report, acknowledged that “the persistence advantage of [Global Hawk] manifests itself in lower execution costs.”

 

Among its various proposals, Northrop Grumman has made one that stands out. It is offering to provide a 10-year contractor logistics contract for the Global Hawk Block 30 for $250 million, as a fixed price. It made the offer, though, months after the Air Force decided to terminate the program.

 

CHASING SOLUTIONS

 

There is much disagreement on how much it would cost to upgrade the Global Hawk Block 30s, where there are shortfalls that need addressing. Take the sensors. The Air Force reported to Congress that “Upgrades to the GH Block 30 to achieve parity with the U-2 program require an expenditure of approximately $855 million.”

 

It might not be able to fly as high, but at least it could photograph as clearly.

 

Northrop Grumman’s defenders, eager to get the Air Force to change its mind, say the service is way off the mark. The company has offered to put better cameras on the Global Hawk for just $48 million.

 

“We’ve looked at that and we’ve addressed it,” Vice said. “We looked at how to open up our architecture. We’ve offered a firm fixed-price offer to the U.S. Air Force to integrate the SYERS sensors onto Global Hawk. And that would cost the Air Force only 6 percent of what the Air Force believed it would cost to upgrade the current Block 30 cameras. Guaranteed price; no risk to the government.”

 

Northrop Grumman’s $48 million versus the Air Force $855 million is an unresolved discrepancy, for the moment. One reason it can work: The company wants to simply remove the cameras from the competition — essentially cannibalizing the U-2.

 

As for the Global Hawk’s getting grounded in places like Guam, where it can’t be relied on during the rainy season, the plane’s supporters say that’s the Air Force’s fault in the first place because of onerous restrictions. Supporters argue that requiring the plane to fly 10,000 feet over clouds, and limiting it to one route was the problem that caused it to be grounded excessively.

 

Now it’s been given alternative routes, which supporters say will cut back on canceled missions.

 

The difficulty has been that Global Hawk is unmanned, without “sense and avoid” technology to meet air traffic requirements. Normally, a pilot could see the clouds and steer around them, but without a pilot, the Global Hawk can’t do that.

 

Northrop Grumman has told the Air Force it can put “weather diversion” cameras in the Guam-based Global Hawks. That way, the operators back at base will be able to see the clouds and reroute, just as they could if the pilot was flying.

 

The company pitched the idea to the Air Force, offering to install the cameras for $7 million.

 

MOTIVE

 

There are some analysts who believe that in spite of the Global Hawk’s shortfalls, the Air Force is making a mistake. .

 

“However you cut it, I think there is a good case for Global Hawk Block 30,” says Mark Gunzinger of the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments. “The reasons cited for retiring the Block 30s don’t stand up under scrutiny. It’s worth questioning.”

 

But if the Air Force is really being disingenuous in terminating the Global Hawk, as its critics say, what would be the motive? That’s where the Northrop Grumman defenders are having a difficult time.

 

Is it, perhaps, a lingering bias against drones, a preference for the swaggering days of the piloted plane? At a House hearing in May where he castigated the Air Force for its decision on Global Hawk, Moran said as much: “The U-2, as you know, has a pilot. And I suspect that’s the real issue — the pilotless versus the piloted craft, even though the U-2 has been around longer than even some of the members of this subcommittee have been alive.”

 

Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh protested: “Pilot being in the airplane had absolutely nothing to do with it. I couldn’t care less. We want the platform that will do the best job of accomplishing the mission assigned — manned or unmanned — and we’ve said that all along.”

 

And after all, the Air Force has hundreds of UAVs and continues to develop new ones. It’s a hard to argue that the service simply doesn’t like unmanned aviation any more.

 

If not a bias against planes, others say that it is just stubbornness: The Air Force has dug itself into an untenable position and because of bureaucracy, is unwilling to back down, they say.

 

Still, that does seem like a stretch, given what’s at stake. If the Air Force still says it doesn’t need to spend the hundreds of millions of dollars on a program it finds inadequate, it will be hard to argue with that in an era when sequestration is cutting everyone’s budget.

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6 juin 2013 4 06 /06 /juin /2013 06:50
EuroHawk: Implications for Germany and NATO

June 5, 2013 defense-unmanned.com

(Source: International Relations and Security Network; issued June 3, 2013)

 

The End of the German Euro Hawk Programme – The Implications for Germany and NATO

 

Germany’s decision to cancel its purchase of Euro Hawk UAVs has turned into a major political scandal for the Merkel government. Justyna Gotkowska warns that it may also have serious consequences for NATO’s Alliance Ground Surveillance (AGS) program.

 

 

On 14 May, the German Ministry of Defence announced it would be withdrawing from the planned purchased of the Euro Hawk unmanned aerial vehicles. The reasons given for this were the difficulties and high costs of introducing the system to general air traffic in Germany and Europe.

 

Germany abandoning one of its largest armament programmes has turned into an unprecedented scandal over the procurement of armament and military equipment in Germany. This concerns both the costs incurred (between 600 and 800 million euros) and the manner in which the programme was being run by the Ministry of Defence. The opposition is capitalising on this scandal in the run up to the election to the Bundestag scheduled for September 2013. Dismissals at the German Ministry of Defence should not be ruled out, either.

 

The scandal may also have adverse consequences for one of NATO’s most important programmes, Alliance Ground Surveillance (AGS). This may lead to further delays in the implementation of the programme and an increase in costs resulting from the adjustment of the commissioned system to new European regulations.

 

The German Euro Hawk programme

 

Euro Hawk was one of Germany’s largest armament programmes over the past few years and was one of the flagships of German-US armament co-operation programmes. As part of this programme, whose estimated cost was approximately 1.3 billion euros, Germany was to buy five unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). Euro Hawk was to be used for signals intelligence (SIGINT). As an unmanned HALE (high altitude long-endurance) system it was supposed to be able to carry out surveillance missions over large spaces at a flight level of up to 18 km (above commercial aircraft flights) and with a flight duration of up to approximately 30 hours. The Euro Hawk programme was initiated in 2001 by the SPD/Green Party government. The contract for the development of the Euro Hawk system was signed in 2007 by the CDU/CSU/SPD government, Germany received the prototype in July 2011 during the present CDU/CSU/FDP coalition.

 

The construction of the Euro Hawk is based on the Global Hawk RQ-4B Block 20 produced by the US company Northrop Grumman. The Euro/Global Hawk (length: 14.5 m, wingspan: 40 m) is currently among the world’s largest military UAVs. The construction of the Global Hawk RQ-4B Block 20 was adjusted to meet the German needs. The UAV was equipped with SIGINT sensors manufactured by Germany’s Cassidian, part of EADS company. The costs of the prototype, including SIGINT sensors, and of testing it since July 2011 and the costs of adjusting the Jagel military airbase probably reached between 600 and 800 million euros (according to some estimates, this figure reached 1 billion euros).

 

In mid-May this year, the German Ministry of Defence announced it would be entirely withdrawing from the Euro Hawk programme, i.e. the purchase of the remaining four UAVs and the operational use of the prototype. The reasons given for this decision included great difficulties and enormous additional costs (500–600 million euros) linked to the procedure of admitting the UAV for use in German general airspace outside the segregated airspace (i.e. strictly defined areas). This will be necessary if this kind of UAV is to be used in Germany (and in Europe) due to the fact that German (and European) airspace is used intensely.

 

According to information from the German MoD, the problems concerned lacks in the technical documentation provided by the US company. The press reported that there were probably also some technical problems with the prototype, namely problems maintaining contact between the UAV and the ground control station, as well as Northrop Grumman’s unwillingness to provide sensitive technical data and the lack of an automatic anti-collision system.

 

The end of the Euro Hawk programme - the consequences for Germany

 

The winding up of the Euro Hawk programme due to difficulties with admitting its use in general air traffic has provoked one of the biggest scandals of the past few years in the field of armament and military equipment procurement in Germany. The costs incurred and the procedures applied and also the manner in which the programme had been organised by the German Ministry of Defence have caused outrage among the general public.

 

Firstly, the ministry paid a huge price for the construction of a prototype, probably without having reserved the right to recoup at least part of the money, due to the provisions of the contract signed with the Euro Hawk consortium (formed by Northrop Grumman and Cassidian). Furthermore, given its desire to use the SIGINT sensors, which were developed for the Euro Hawk system, the ministry must buy new platforms (most likely, manned aircraft).

 

Secondly, information on possible problems with Euro Hawk being admitted to use in the general airspace was probably available already before the contract concerning the prototype development was signed, and at least since 2011. Nevertheless, this did not lead either to the programme being interrupted or to the contract with the consortium being amended.

 

Thirdly, due to the contract provisions which guaranteed Northrop Grumman the right to refuse to disclose information to any third parties, the Ministry of Defence restricted the Bundesrechnungshof (the Federal Court of Auditors) access to part of the programme’s documentation. It thus prevented a financial audit of the programme, which is contrary to German law.

 

Although all German governments since 2001 have been involved in the development of the programme, starting with the SPD/Green Party coalition, the responsibility for the scandal over the Euro Hawk programme is pinned primarily on the present defence minister, Thomas de Maiziere (CDU). Until recently, he had the reputation of being one of the best ministers in Chancellor Angela Merkel’s cabinet. The opposition has been capitalising on this issue in their campaign ahead of the election to the Bundestag. Dismissals at the Ministry of Defence cannot be ruled out, either.

 

The consequences for NATO’s AGS programme

 

Germany’s withdrawal from the Euro Hawk programme due to problems with UAVs being admitted to general air traffic may also have implications for NATO and one of its most important programmes, Alliance Ground Surveillance (AGS).

 

The goal of the AGS programme is to enable NATO to conduct airborne surveillance operations, such as detecting and tracking stationary and moving objects in real time in any weather conditions. The AGS system will consists of five Global Hawk RQ-4B Block 40 and ground control station based in Sicily, Italy. According to the schedule, the system will achieve operational capability in 2015–2017. Fourteen countries, including Germany participate in the AGS programme, the estimated cost of which is 1.3 billion euros (Poland is planning to re-join it). The German contribution is 483 million euros. Germany also planned (no contracts have been signed as yet) to buy an additional four Global Hawk RQ-4B Block 40 with similar capabilities to NATO’s AGS.

 

After the cancellation of the Euro Hawk programme questions have appeared in discussions in Germany as to the possible problems Global Hawk system could have with gaining access to general airspace in Italy (certification of NATO’s Global Hawks) and in Germany (certification of the German Global Hawks). Furthermore, no uniform European legal regulations exist concerning the use of military UAVs in European general airspace. The first steps have been taken in this direction. So far, there is only one document which provides non-binding guidelines from the EUROCONTROL organisation which defines the minimum requirements, rules and criteria for flights of UAVs, including the Global Hawk system. Pursuant to this document, they should meet the same safety criteria as those applicable to manned aircraft.

 

As a consequence of the Euro Hawk scandal, those German politicians who deal with military issues – from the opposition (the SPD and the Green Party) and the government coalition (the FDP and even CDU) alike, are insisting that funding be withdrawn from all programmes involving UAVs. This concerns both the German contribution to the AGS programme and the German MoD’s plans to buy a further four Global Hawks.

 

Firstly, until it becomes clear whether the UAVs will be admitted to use in general airspace in Germany. Secondly, until European regulations concerning the use of UAVs in general airspace in Europe are introduced.

 

If the current or future German government backs these demands, this may spell a further delay in the process to achieve operational capability for NATO’s AGS system and perhaps also an increase in the costs due to the possible need to adjust the system to new European regulations.

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