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Global Hawk Tests Ability to Detect Airborne Targets

Navy NewsStand

Story Number: NNS051102-06
Release Date: 11/2/2005 12:56:00 PM

From Naval Air Systems Command Public Affairs

PATUXENT RIVER, Md. (NNS) -- The U.S. Navy's most advanced unmanned aerial system (UAS), the RQ-4A Global Hawk Maritime Demonstration (GHMD), participated with the Air Force in a congressionally directed demonstration Oct. 26, to detect airborne targets.

The 12.3 hour mission, flown in Navy Pacific Ocean test ranges off southern Calif., was a test of the effectiveness of the Global Hawk's radar to detect small aircraft in flight. The tests conducted will determine the capability of the radar to find and track airborne targets, and to pass sensor information in real time to ground facilities across the country.

This flight illustrated the highly joint nature of the Global Hawk program. The air vehicle, RQ-4A, is a Navy aircraft flown by contractor operators working for the Navy - and was flown from Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., on an Air Force test program. Data from the sensors was passed to both Air Force and Navy ground facilities.

The RQ-4A Global Hawk, manufactured by Northrop-Grumman, is the most sophisticated UAS in the American military. With a length of 44 feet, a wingspan of 116 feet, and a gross weight of 25,600 pounds, the Global Hawk is comparable in size to a U-2 or a small business jet. Operating at an altitude of approximately 60,000 feet, the Global Hawk endurance is well in excess of 24 hours. Sensors include radar and a high-resolution digital camera operating in both visible and infrared spectra. Data is passed to the ground stations in real time by both line-of-sight and high-speed satellite communications links.

The Global Hawk made its first flight Feb. 28, 1998. Since then, RQ-4As have flown approximately 7,000 hours, including 4,000 combat hours in support of operations in Afghanistan and Iraq.

The Naval Air Systems Command, PMA-263, has acquired two GHMD aircraft and associated ground stations to support the development of tactics and operating procedures for future unmanned maritime patrol systems. In order to perform maritime search missions, the sensor suite carried by the GHMD aircraft has undergone extensive software modifications enabling new maritime radar modes, specialized software in both the aircraft and ground stations, and the incorporation of passive electronic sensors unique to the Navy UASs. These modifications are being tested by test and evaluation squadron, VX-20, which will operate the GHMD system in both flight tests and tactical experiments. After initial sensor testing on the west coast, the Navy's Global Hawks will be ferried (winter 2006) to Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Md., the main operating base for the system.

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