Global Hawk drones to be converted for use in hypersonic missile testing


The US Air Force and Northrop Grumman are to convert four Global Hawk drones for use in hypersonic missile testing.

The USA’s Department of Defense Test Resource Management Center (TRMC) has instructed Northrop Grumman to begin engineering and planning work to reconfigure four US Air Force EQ-4 Block 20 Global Hawk aircraft for use in the SkyRange fleet of testing vehicles for hypersonic testing.

The SkyRange program will equip the four high-altitude, long-endurance EQ-4 aircraft with sensors as part of an alternative data collection support system to support testing US hypersonic systems.

Modifications of the Block 20 jets are expected to occur at Northrop Grumman’s Grand Sky facility near Grand Forks, North Dakota.

“The SkyRange program exploits the intrinsic strengths of Global Hawk – altitude, persistence, payload, and flexibility,” said Jane Bishop, vice president and general manager, global surveillance, Northrop Grumman. “Grand Sky’s high-tech facility with a modern 35,000 square foot hangar provides the ideal location for engineering modifications to Global Hawk in support of the SkyRange program.”

Global Hawk is a high-altitude, long-endurance Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (ISR) platform used by the US Air Force and several global partners. To meet future operational needs, Global Hawk is receiving ground station, cyber resiliency and mission planning upgrades for it to deliver intelligence to combatant commanders and perform new missions.

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Ben has worked as a journalist and editor, covering technology, engineering and industry for the last 20 years. Initially writing about subjects from nuclear submarines to autonomous cars to future design and manufacturing technologies, he was editor of a leading UK-based engineering magazine before becoming editor of Aerospace Testing in 2017.

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