Northrop Grumman has started demonstrating the capability of the unmanned RQ-4B Global Hawk to carry new sensors – including those used on the U-2 Dragon Lady high-altitude reconnaissance aircraft – using a company-developed universal payload adaptor. Supplementing the types of sensors the Global Hawk carries is part of a series of improvements the company is making to the aircraft to convince the US Air Force of its utility as a U-2 replacement.
Under a cooperative research and development agreement (CRADA) with the Air Force, Northrop Grumman began flight tests of a representative ‘mass simulator’ of the UTC Aerospace Systems SYERS-2 multispectral imaging sensor in December 2015, flying it most recently on January 14.
The company expects to receive an operational sensor from the service next month that it will test and fly on the RQ-4B. Northrop Grumman said the purpose of the demonstration is “to validate the ability of Global Hawk to seamlessly integrate into the USAF tasking, collection, processing, exploitation and dissemination architecture.”
By the end of the summer, the company plans to begin testing a second U-2 legacy sensor, the UTC optical bar camera (OBC) on the Global Hawk. The integration and testing of the two sensors is a risk reduction exercise that will lead to testing the new UTC Aerospace MS-177 multispectral sensor, which Northrop Grumman plans to test in flight in early 2017.
January 21, 2016