RQ-4 Global Hawk UAV (UAS): Aircraft profile

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The RQ-4 Global Hawk is a high-altitude, long-endurance unmanned aircraft system with an integrated sensor suite that provides intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, or ISR, capability worldwide.

RQ-4 Global Hawk UAS (UAV): A Global Hawk unmanned aircraft system is towed back to its hangar following a mission Oct. 3 at a deployed location in Southwest Asia. (U.S. Air Force photo/Master Sgt. Jason Tudor)RQ-4 Global Hawk UAS (UAV): A Global Hawk unmanned aircraft system is towed back to its hangar following a mission Oct. 3 at a deployed location in Southwest Asia. (U.S. Air Force photo/Master Sgt. Jason Tudor)

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. The Global Hawk complements manned and space reconnaissance systems by providing near-real-time coverage using imagery intelligence or IMINT, sensors.

Features

The Global Hawk system consists of the RQ-4 aircraft, mission control element, or MCE, launch and recovery element, or LRE, sensors, communication links, support element and trained personnel. The IMINT sensors include synthetic aperture radar, electro-optical and medium-wave infrared sensors. The system offers a wide variety of employment options. The long range and endurance of this system allow tremendous flexibility in meeting mission requirements.

The Global Hawk will eventually carry the airborne signals intelligence payload. One version of Global Hawk will carry the Radar Technology Insertion Program active electronically scanned array radar.

RQ-4 Global Hawk UAS (UAV): Northrop Grumman contractors tow the Global Hawk to its hangar after working on its sensors at RAAF Base Edinburgh, Adelaide, Australia, during the support of Exercise TANDEM THRUST 01. Able to cover more than 40,000 square miles, the jet powered Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) RQ-4A Global Hawk has a wing span of 116 feet, equal to a Boeing 737, able to fly up to 65,000 feet and loiter for more than 24 hours. The Global Hawk deployed to Australia from April to June 2001, flying more than a dozen missions. This Global Hawk completed its biggest challenge to date the non-stop Trans-Pacific flight from Edwards to Edinburgh. TANDEM THRUST 2001 a combined US, Australian, and Canadian military exercise for crisis action planning and execution of contingency response operations. The biannual exercise is held in the vicinity of Shoalwater Bay training area in Queensland, Australia.RQ-4 Global Hawk UAS (UAV): Northrop Grumman contractors tow the Global Hawk to its hangar after working on its sensors at RAAF Base Edinburgh, Adelaide, Australia, during the support of Exercise TANDEM THRUST 01. Able to cover more than 40,000 square miles, the jet powered Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) RQ-4A Global Hawk has a wing span of 116 feet, equal to a Boeing 737, able to fly up to 65,000 feet and loiter for more than 24 hours. The Global Hawk deployed to Australia from April to June 2001, flying more than a dozen missions. This Global Hawk completed its biggest challenge to date the non-stop Trans-Pacific flight from Edwards to Edinburgh. TANDEM THRUST 2001 a combined US, Australian, and Canadian military exercise for crisis action planning and execution of contingency response operations. The biannual exercise is held in the vicinity of Shoalwater Bay training area in Queensland, Australia.

The MCE serves as the Global Hawk cockpit during the operational portion of the mission with a pilot and sensor operator crew. Command and control data links provide the Global Hawk crew complete dynamic control of the aircraft. The pilot workstations in the MCE and LRE act as the cockpit on the ground for the pilot to control and display platform status transmitted from the aircraft via the command and control link (health and status of the aircraft, sensors, navigational systems and communication links). From this station, the pilot communicates with outside entities to coordinate the mission (air traffic control, airborne controllers, ground controllers, other ISR assets, etc.). When necessary the pilot can land the aircraft at any location provided in the aircraft mission plan. The sensor operator workstation manually provides the capability to dynamically update the collection plan, monitor sensor status, initiate sensor calibration and process, distribute, and store data. The sensor operator provides quality control of images on selected targets of high interest (ad hoc, dynamic targets, etc.)

The LRE, located at the aircraft base, launches the aircraft until handoff to the MCE contains functions required to launch, recover and operate an aircraft while en route to or from the target area. The LRE contains one pilot station providing the capability to operate one aircraft with no sensor operations.

RQ-4 Global Hawk UAS (UAV): A Global Hawk unmanned aerial vehicle lands at a deployed location in Southwest Asia following a mission Oct. 3. The Global Hawk provides Air Force and joint battlefield commanders near-real-time, high-resolution, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance imagery. The Global Hawk is currently supporting operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom from this deployed location. (U.S. Air Force photo/Master Sgt. Jason Tudor)RQ-4 Global Hawk UAS (UAV): A Global Hawk unmanned aerial vehicle lands at a deployed location in Southwest Asia following a mission Oct. 3. The Global Hawk provides Air Force and joint battlefield commanders near-real-time, high-resolution, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance imagery. The Global Hawk is currently supporting operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom from this deployed location. (U.S. Air Force photo/Master Sgt. Jason Tudor)

Background

Global Hawk began as an Advanced Concept Technology Demonstration in 1995. The system was determined to have military utility and provide warfighters with a high-altitude, long-endurance ISR capability. While still a developmental system, Global Hawk deployed operationally to support the global war on terrorism in November 2001.

In the RQ-4 name, the "R" is the Department of Defense designation for reconnaissance and "Q" means unmanned aircraft system. The "4" refers to the series of purpose-built remotely piloted aircraft systems.

The Global Hawk UAS provides near-continuous all-weather, day/night, wide area surveillance and will eventually replace the U-2.

The Global Hawk is operated by the 12th Reconnaissance Squadron. The 1st RS provides formal training; both squadrons are located at Beale Air Force Base, Calif.

General Characteristics

Primary function: High-altitude, long-endurance intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance

Contractor: Northrop Grumman (Prime), Raytheon, L3 Comm

Power Plant: Rolls Royce-North American AE 3007H turbofan

Thrust: 7,600 pounds

Wingspan: (RQ-4A) 116 feet (35.3 meters); (RQ-4B) 130.9 feet (39.8 meters)

Length: (RQ-4A) 44 feet (13.4 meters); RQ-4B, 47.6 feet (14.5 meters)

Height: RQ-4A 15.2 (4.6 meters); RQ-4B, 15.3 feet (4.7 meters)

Weight: RQ-4A, 11,350 pounds (5,148 kilograms); RQ-4B, 14,950 pounds (6,781 kilograms)

Maximum takeoff weight: RQ-4A, 26,750 pounds (12,133 kilograms ); RQ-4B, 32,250 pounds (14628 kilograms)

Fuel Capacity: RQ-4A, 15,400 pounds (6,985 kilograms); RQ-4B, 17,300 pounds (7847 kilograms)

Payload: RQ-4A, 2,000 pounds (907 kilograms); RQ-4B, 3,000 pounds (1,360 kilograms)

Speed: RQ-4A, 340 knots (391 mph); RQ-4B, 310 knots (357 mph)

Range: RQ-4A, 9,500 nautical miles; RQ-4B, 8,700 nautical miles

Ceiling: 60,000 feet (18,288 meters)

Crew (remote): Three (LRE pilot, MCE pilot and sensor operator)

Unit Cost: RQ-4A, $37.6 million; RQ-4B, $55-$81 million

Initial operating capability: fiscal 2012

Inventory: Active force, RQ-4A: 7; RQ-4B: 3

Source: US Air Force

RQ-4 Global Hawk UAS (UAV): Master Sgt. Robert Holland (left) talks to a group of deployed Airmen Oct. 12 about the RQ-4 Global Hawk. Sergeant Holland is one of the maintainers assigned to keep the aircraft flying. The Airmen, deployed from Schriever Air Force Base, Colo., and assigned to the 380th Air Expeditionary Wing, were given a morning briefing of the unmanned aircraft's capabilities. (U.S. Air Force photo/Master Sgt. Jason Tudor)RQ-4 Global Hawk UAS (UAV): Master Sgt. Robert Holland (left) talks to a group of deployed Airmen Oct. 12 about the RQ-4 Global Hawk. Sergeant Holland is one of the maintainers assigned to keep the aircraft flying. The Airmen, deployed from Schriever Air Force Base, Colo., and assigned to the 380th Air Expeditionary Wing, were given a morning briefing of the unmanned aircraft's capabilities. (U.S. Air Force photo/Master Sgt. Jason Tudor)

Detailed background:

Source: wikipedia.org

The Northrop Grumman (formerly Ryan Aeronautical) RQ-4 Global Hawk (known as Tier II+ during development) is an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) used by the United States Air Force as a surveillance aircraft.

Development

Overview

In role and design, it is similar to the Lockheed U-2, the venerable 1950s spy plane. It is a theater commander's asset to both provide a broad overview and systematically target surveillance shortfalls. The Global Hawk air vehicle is able to provide high resolution Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR)—that can penetrate cloud-cover and sandstorms—and Electro-Optical/Infrared (EO/IR) imagery at long range with long loiter times over target areas. It can survey as much as 40,000 square miles (100,000 square kilometers) of terrain a day. If a Global Hawk were flown out from San Francisco, it would be able to operate in Maine for 24 hours, observe a 230 X 230 mile (370 x 370 kilometer) grid, and then fly back home.

Potential missions for the Global Hawk cover the spectrum of intelligence collection capability to support forces in worldwide peace, crisis, and wartime operations. According to the Air Force, the capabilities of the aircraft will allow more precise targeting of weapons and better protection of forces through superior surveillance capabilities.

The "R" is the Department of Defense designation for reconnaissance; "Q" means unmanned aircraft system. The "4" refers to it being the fourth of a series of purpose-built unmanned aircraft systems.

The Global Hawk costs about $35 million USD each (actual per-aircraft costs; with development costs also included, the per-aircraft cost rises to $123.2 million USD each

United States Air Force

The first seven aircraft were built under the Advanced Concept Technology Demonstration (ACTD) program, in order to evaluate the design and its capabilities. Due to world circumstances, the capabilities of the aircraft were in high demand, so the prototype aircraft were operated in theater in the War in Afghanistan.

In an unusual move, the aircraft entered initial low-rate production concurrently while still in engineering and manufacturing development. Nine production Block 10 aircraft (sometimes referred to as RQ-4A configuration) were produced, two of which were transferred to the US Navy. Two more were sent to Iraq to support operations there. The final Block 10 aircraft was delivered on 26 June 2006.

In order to increase the aircraft's capabilities, the airframe was redesigned, with the nose section and wings being stretched. The changes, with the designation RQ-4 Block 20, allow the aircraft to carry up to 3,000 pounds of internal payload. These changes were introduced with the first Block 20 aircraft, the 17th Global Hawk produced, which was rolled out in a ceremony on August 25, 2006. First flight of the Block 20 from the USAF Plant 42 in Palmdale, CA to Edwards AFB took place on March 1, 2007. Developmental testing of Block 20 is scheduled for 2007 and 2008. Future Block 30 and 40 aircraft, similar in size to the Block 20, are scheduled for development from 2008 to 2010.

RQ-4 Global Hawk UAS (UAV): A Global Hawk unmanned aircraft system from the 9th Reconnaissance Wing at Beale Air Force Base, Calif., made a trans-Atlantic flight Sept. 20 with the assistance of Navy officials. The 19-hour flight took off from Patuxent River Naval Air Station, Md., to Southwest Asia. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Miranda Moorer)RQ-4 Global Hawk UAS (UAV): A Global Hawk unmanned aircraft system from the 9th Reconnaissance Wing at Beale Air Force Base, Calif., made a trans-Atlantic flight Sept. 20 with the assistance of Navy officials. The 19-hour flight took off from Patuxent River Naval Air Station, Md., to Southwest Asia. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Miranda Moorer)

Cost overruns

Program development cost overruns had put the Global Hawk system at risk of cancellation. Per-unit costs in mid-2006 were 25% over baseline estimates, caused by both the need to correct design deficiencies as well as increase the system's capabilities. This caused some concerns about a possible congressional termination of the program if its national security benefits could not be justified. However, in June 2006, the Global Hawk program was restructured. Completion of an operational assessment report by the Air Force was slipped due to manufacturing and development delays from August 2005 to November 2007. The operational assessment report was released in March 2007 and production of the 54 air vehicles planned has been extended by two years to 2015.

United States Navy

The United States Navy took delivery of two of the Block 10 aircraft to be used to evaluate maritime surveillance capabilities, designated N-1. The initial example, tail number 166509, was tested in a naval configuration at Edwards Air Force Base for several months, later ferrying to NAS Patuxent River on March 28, 2006 to begin the Global Hawk Maritime Demonstration (GHMD) program. Navy squadron VX-20 was tasked with operating the GHMD system.

In the spring of 2006, the GHMD aircraft took part in a demonstration of the type's ability to conduct maritime drug interdiction surveillance, completing four flights over the Caribbean and off the coast of Florida, locating and identifying numerous airborne and surface targets.

The GHMD aircraft flew in the Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) exercise for the first time in July, 2006. Although RIMPAC operations were in the vicinity of Hawaii, the aircraft was operated from Edwards, requiring flights of approximately 2,500 miles (4,000 km) each way to the operations area. Four flights were performed, resulting in over 24 hours of persistent maritime surveillance coordinated with USS Abraham Lincoln and Bonhomme Richard. As a part of the demonstration program, Global Hawk was tasked with maintenance of maritime situational awareness, contact tracking, and imagery support of various exercise operations. The imagery obtained by Global Hawk was transmitted to NAS Patuxent River for processing before being forwarded on to the fleet operations off Hawaii, thus exercising the global nature of this aircraft's operations.

Northrop Grumman entered a version of the RQ-4B in the US Navy's Broad Area Maritime Surveillance (BAMS) UAV contract competition. On 22 April 2008 the announcement was made that the Northrop Grumman RQ-4N had won the bid, with the Navy awarding a contract worth $1.16 billion.

NASA

In December 2007, two Global Hawks were transferred from the U.S. Air Force to NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center at Edwards Air Force Base. Initial research activities beginning in 2009 will support NASA's Airborne Science Program. The two Global Hawks were the first and sixth aircraft built under the original Advanced Concept Technology Demonstration program sponsored by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, and were made available to NASA when the Air Force had no further need for them.

Luftwaffe

The German Luftwaffe has ordered a variant of the RQ-4B equipped with European sensors, dubbed EuroHawk. It combines a normal RQ-4B airframe with an EADS reconnaissance payload.

The aircraft is based on the Block 20/30/40 RQ-4B, but will be equipped with EADS' SIGINT package to fulfil Germany's desire to replace their aging Dassault-Breguet Atlantique electronic surveillance aircraft. A first batch of 5 EuroHawks will be delivered for the Luftwaffe from 2010 on.

The costs for the initial five aircraft are approx. €430 million for the development, and €430 million for the actual procurement.

Potential operators

Australia is considering the purchase of a number of Global Hawk aircraft for maritime and land surveillance. The Global Hawk will be assessed against the RQ-1 Mariner in trials planned for 2007. If selected the Global Hawk aircraft will be operated in conjunction with manned P-8A Poseidon aircraft by 10 and 11 Squadrons of the RAAF. This combination, or a similar one, will replace existing AP-3C Orion aircraft in 2018.

Canada is also a potential customer, looking at the Global Hawk for maritime and land surveillance as either a replacement for its fleet of CP-140 Aurora patrol aircraft or to supplement manned patrols of remote Arctic and maritime environments. Spain has a similar requirement, existing contacts with Northrop Grumman at this issue.

South Korea's Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA) had expressed interest in acquiring at least four RQ-4B and support equipment by 2011 to increase the intelligence capabilities of the South Korean military after the return of the Wartime Operational Control from the U.S. to ROK, and has allocated approximately USD$19m for evaluation purposes. There is ongoing debate among government officials on whether to take the US offer of Global Hawks or to press on with their domestic UAV development program.

RQ-4 Global Hawk UAS (UAV): Senior Airman Jacob Hush serves as the counterbalance as fuel is pumped into a RQ-4 Global Hawk June 16 at Beale Air Force Base, Calif. (U.S. Air Force photo/Lance Cheung)RQ-4 Global Hawk UAS (UAV): Senior Airman Jacob Hush serves as the counterbalance as fuel is pumped into a RQ-4 Global Hawk June 16 at Beale Air Force Base, Calif. (U.S. Air Force photo/Lance Cheung)

Design

The RQ-4 is powered by an Allison Rolls-Royce AE3007H turbofan engine with 7,050lbf (3,200 kgf / 31.4 kN) thrust, and carries a payload of 2,000 pounds (900 kilograms). The fuselage is mostly of conventional aluminum airframe construction, while the wings are made of carbon composite.

The Global Hawk is the first UAV to be certified by the FAA to file its own flight plans and use civilian air corridors in the United States with no advance notice. This potentially paves the way for a revolution in unmanned flight, including that of remotely piloted cargo or passenger airliners.

Integrated system

The Global Hawk's wings, fuselage, fairings, nacelles, and tails are manufactured from high strength-to-weight Composites.

The Global Hawk UAV system comprises an air vehicle segment consisting of air vehicles with sensor payloads, avionics, and data links; a ground segment consisting of a Launch and Recovery Element (LRE), and a Mission Control Element (MCE) with embedded ground communications equipment; a support element; and trained personnel.

The Integrated Sensor Suite (ISS) is provided by Raytheon and consists of a synthetic aperture radar (SAR), electro-optical (EO), and infrared (IR) sensors. Either the EO or the IR sensors can operate simultaneously with the SAR. Each of the sensors provides wide area search imagery and a high-resolution spot mode. The SAR has a ground moving target indicator (GMTI) mode, which can provide a text message providing the moving target's position and velocity. Both SAR and EO/IR imagery are processed onboard the aircraft and transmitted to the MCE as individual frames. The MCE can mosaic these frames into images prior to further dissemination.

Navigation is via inertial navigation with integrated Global Positioning System updates. Global Hawk is intended to operate autonomously and "untethered" using a satellite data link (either Ku or UHF) for sending sensor data from the aircraft to the MCE. The common data link can also be used for direct down link of imagery when the UAV is operating within line-of-sight of users with compatible ground stations.

The ground segment consists of a Mission Control Element (MCE) and Launch and Recovery Element (LRE), provided by Raytheon. The MCE is used for mission planning, command and control, and image processing and dissemination; an LRE for controlling launch and recovery; and associated ground support equipment. (The LRE provides precision differential global positioning system corrections for navigational accuracy during takeoff and landings, while precision coded GPS supplemented with an inertial navigation system is used during mission execution.) By having separable elements in the ground segment, the MCE and the LRE can operate in geographically separate locations, and the MCE can be deployed with the supported command's primary exploitation site. Both ground segments are contained in military shelters with external antennas for line-of-sight and satellite communications with the air vehicles.

Sensor packages

The Global Hawk carries the "Hughes Integrated Surveillance & Reconnaissance (HISAR)" sensor system. HISAR is a lower-cost derivative of the ASARS-2 package that Hughes developed for the Lockheed U-2. HISAR is also fitted in the US Army's RC-7B Airborne Reconnaissance Low Multifunction (ARLM) manned surveillance aircraft, and is being sold on the international market. HISAR integrates a SAR-MTI system, along with an optical and an infrared imager. All three sensors are controlled and their outputs filtered by a common processor. The digital sensor data can be transmitted at up to 50 Mbit/s to a ground station in real time, either directly or through a communications satellite link.

The SAR-MTI system operates in the X-band and provides a number of operational modes:

* The wide-area MTI mode can detect moving targets within a radius of 62 miles (100 kilometers).

* The combined SAR-MTI strip mode provides 20 foot (6 meter) resolution over a swath 23 miles (37 kilometers) wide at ranges from 12.4 to 68 miles (20 to 110 kilometers).

* The SAR spot mode can provide 6 foot (1.8 meter) resolution over 3.8 square miles (10 square kilometers), as well as provide a sea-surveillance function.

The visible and infrared imagers share the same gimballed sensor package, and use common optics, providing a telescopic close-up capability. It can be optionally fitted with an auxiliary SIGINT package. To improve survivability, the Global Hawk is fitted with a Raytheon developed AN/ALR-89 self-protection suite consisting of the AN/AVR-3 Laser Warning System, AN/APR-49 Radar Warning Receiver and a jamming system. An ALE-50 towed decoy also aids in the Global Hawk's deception of enemy air defenses.

In July, 2006, the Air Force began testing segments of the improved Global Hawk Block 30 upgrades in the Benefield Anechoic Facility at Edwards AFB. This version incorporates an extremely sensitive SIGINT processor known as the Advanced Signals Intelligence Payload.

In September 2006, testing began on a new specialty radar system, the Multi-Platform Radar Technology Insertion Program, or MP-RTIP, onboard the Scaled Composites Proteus. Once validated, one Global Hawk will be modified to carry this radar set, and the other, larger variant (known as the Wide-Area Surveillance or WAS sensor) will be installed on the Air Force E-10 MC2A testbed or E-8 Joint STARS aircraft.

Operational history

Air Force Global Hawk flight test evaluations are performed by the 452nd Flight Test Squadron at Edwards AFB. Operational aircraft are flown by the 9th Reconnaissance Wing, 12th Reconnaissance Squadron at Beale Air Force Base.

Global Hawk ATCD prototypes have been used in the War in Afghanistan and in the Iraq War. While their data-collection capabilities have been praised, the aircraft did suffer a high number of accidents, with two of the aircraft, more than one quarter of the aircraft used in the wars, being lost. According to Australian press reports, the crashes were due to "technical failures or poor maintenance", with a failure rate per hour flown over 100 times higher than the F-16 fighters flown in the same wars. The manufacturers stated that it was unfair to compare the failure rates of a mature design to that of a prototype plane, and pointed to a lack of trained maintenance staff and spare parts.

Records

On March 21, 2001, aircraft number 982003 set an official world endurance record for UAVs, at 30 hours, 24 minutes and 1 second, flying from Edwards. During the same flight, it set an absolute altitude record of 19,928 meters (65,380.6 ft), which was later broken by the NASA Helios Prototype (although the absolute record was broken, the Global Hawk's record still stands in its FAI class category).

On April 24, 2001 a Global Hawk flew non-stop from Edwards Air Force Base in the US to RAAF Base Edinburgh in Australia, making history by being the first pilotless aircraft to cross the Pacific Ocean. The flight took 22 hours, and set a world record for absolute distance flown by a UAV, 13,219.86 kilometers (8,214.44 mi).

More photos: RQ-4 Global Hawk UAS photo gallery

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