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Global Observer JCTD

The Global Observer is a liquid-hydrogen powered unmanned aircraft system that has been designed for deployment as a stratospheric satellite. It will provide an affordable, persistent presence over any designated area of interest for surveillance and communications relay missions. The Global Observer is a Joint Capability Technology Demonstration (JCTD) initiative that is being managed by the United States Special Operations Command (US SOCOM). The JCTD Program seeks to accelerate the development and operational evaluation of mature advanced technologies to rapidly transition the new capability to military operations.

The Global Observer JCTD was a selected by the Joint Requirements Oversight Council (JROC) as an FY 2008 start. The joint, interagency and multinational forces lack a dedicated, persistent, and wide-area global persistent surveillance platform. The Global Observer Platform has the potential to support multiple intelligence mission areas: 1) Intelligence, Surveillance, Reconnaissance, and Targeting (ISR-T); 2) Broadband Communications Relay Node; 3) Information and Psychological Operations (PSYOP) Broadcasting, with a limited forward footprint.

The Global Observer (GO) JCTD will address the capability gaps identified above with a hydrogen powered high altitude long endurance (HALE) unmanned aircraft system (UAS). The use of hydrogen fuel provides an order of magnitude increase in UAS platform endurance, from hours to days. Increased on-station time reduces the number of platforms required for persistence, allowing a reduction in forward basing infrastructure and support costs. Operation at high altitudes provides a wide field of regard for payloads and reduces the platform's vulnerability to many threats. As part of the demonstration phase funded with BA3 funding initiated the Flight Testing of 7-14 Day Hydrogen Fueled HALE platform.

In FY 2010 under the Planned Transition Output the residual package will be transitioned to Air Force Special Operations Command for potential use in FY 2011 to support its core mission of intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance with the persistent operations using the Electro-Optics/Infrared and communications relay payloads.

Additionally, in FY11, the Global Observer (GO) JCTD will need bridge funding in order to prepare for its inclusion in POM 12. Global Observer Platform is a hydrogen powered, High Altitude Long Endurance (HALE) unmanned aircraft system (UAS) that works as a dedicated, persistent, and wide-area global persistent surveillance platform and has the potential to support the multiple intelligence mission areas to include Intelligence, Surveillance, Reconnaissance, and Targeting (ISR-T), a Broadband Communications Relay Node and Information and Psychological Operations (PSYOP) Broadcasting, with a limited forward footprint. High altitude performance provides a wide field of regard for payloads and reduces the platform's vulnerability to many of today's conventional and asymmetric threats.

AeroVironment, Inc. announced May 25 that the first aircraft developed under the Global ObserverT Joint Capability Technology Demonstration program had successfully completed key ground tests in preparation for flight testing. A team comprised of personnel from the Department of Defense, NASA and AV, successfully performed ground vibration, structural and taxi tests at Edwards Air Force Base. AV developed and fabricated Aircraft 1 in its dedicated manufacturing facility located in Southern California and shipped it to Edwards in December 2009.

AV is developing the Global Observer unmanned aircraft system to be the first to provide robust, cost-effective and persistent communications and surveillance over any location. Six U.S. government agencies have provided more than $120 million in funding for the JCTD program.

"Global Observer is designed to perform above and beyond the capabilities of any other existing aircraft. The unique benefit of this truly unblinking eye will be its ability to watch, listen and relay communications signals flexibly, affordably and without interruption," said Tim Conver, AV's chairman and chief executive officer. "The need for affordable and seamless persistence is great, and we look forward to demonstrating this important capability during the final phase of the Global Observer JCTD program."

Each aircraft in a Global Observer system is designed to fly at an altitude of between 55,000 and 65,000 feet for 5 to 7 days. In addition to flying above weather and above other conventional airplanes, operation in this altitude range means that sensor payloads on the aircraft will be able to view a circular area on the surface of the earth up to 600 miles in diameter, equivalent to more than 280,000 square miles of coverage. Equipped with payloads that are readily available today, two Global Observer aircraft would alternate coverage over any location on the globe every 5 to 7 days, making this the first solution to provide customers with practical, seamless coverage, wherever and whenever required.

The joint Department of Defense, NASA and AV team based at Edwards completed aircraft weight and balance measurements and conducted a series of Ground Vibration and Structural Modes Interaction Tests in February. During March and April the team performed aircraft system tests to validate the aircraft hardware and software readiness, and to support ground and flight crew training in preparation for the initial flight series. Most recently, taxi tests were conducted to confirm autonomous propulsion, data link operation, steering and braking. A final Flight Readiness Review will be conducted to formally review and approve the initiation of flight testing. Initial flight testing will consist of low-altitude battery-powered flights at Edwards to evaluate the aircraft's airworthiness and handling qualities.

Communications relay and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance payloads are being prepared for installation into the aircraft. Once development flight tests have been completed, payloads will be installed and joint operational utility flight demonstrations will be performed at Edwards.

Global Observer is designed to address an urgent national security need for a persistent stratospheric platform and to offer a means to satisfy numerous high value civil and commercial applications. The system is intended to provide mission capabilities that include robust observation over areas with little or no existing coverage, persistent communications relay, the ability to relocate the system as required by theater commanders, dedicated communications support to other UAS and tactical on-station weather monitoring and data support.

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Page last modified: 28-07-2011 00:49:20 ZULU