Next-generation Global Hawk UAV makes flight

PALMDALE, Calif., 10 Dec. 2009. The first Block 40 configuration of the RQ-4 Global Hawk high-altitude, long-endurance (HALE) unmanned aircraft system (UAS) completed its first flight. Designated AF-18, the advanced capability aircraft flew for approximately two hours from Northrop Grumman Corp's (NYSE: NOC) manufacturing facility in Palmdale, Calif., to Edwards Air Force Base, Calif.

PALMDALE, Calif., 10 Dec. 2009. The first Block 40 configuration of the RQ-4 Global Hawk high-altitude, long-endurance (HALE) unmanned aircraft system (UAS) completed its first flight. Designated AF-18, the advanced capability aircraft flew for approximately two hours from Northrop Grumman Corp's (NYSE: NOC) manufacturing facility in Palmdale, Calif., to Edwards Air Force Base, Calif.

"AF-18 is the first of 15 Block 40 Global Hawk aircraft scheduled for fielding to Grand Forks Air Force Base, North Dakota, in 2010," says Steve Amburgey, Global Hawk program director for the 303d Aeronautical Systems Group at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio. "The aircraft will carry an advanced, all-weather multi-platform radar technology insertion program (MP-RTIP) sensor, providing game-changing situational awareness for our warfighters with its unprecedented capability to detect, track, and identify stationary and moving targets."

Global Hawk's range, endurance and large payload capabilities provide persistent surveillance of the enemy with MP-RTIP. Flying at altitudes as high as 60,000 feet for more than 32 hours per sortie at speeds approaching 340 knots, the MP-RTIP-equipped Block 40 Global Hawk can persistently see through most types of weather, day or night.

"AF-18, the eleventh of the next-generation Global Hawk Block 20/30/40s to arrive at Edwards Air Force Base, performed beautifully," says George Guerra, Northrop Grumman vice president of HALE systems. "This flight marks the continuation of our Global Hawk flight test program."

This first flight also marks the end of an era, as Global Hawk production acceptance activities will transition in the near future from Edwards Air Force Base to Air Force Plant 42 in Palmdale. In addition to AF-18, a Block 30 aircraft, AF-19, was recently delivered to the Air Force and is one of 11 major deliveries by the program within the last three months.

Northrop Grumman is the prime contractor for the Global Hawk and MP-RTIP programs and continues to move these technologies forward under the stewardship of the Air Force's Aeronautical Systems Center at Wright-Patterson AFB, and the Electronic Systems Center, located at Hanscom AFB, Mass. Northrop Grumman's Norwalk, Conn., facility is the principal MP-RTIP radar developer along with principal subcontractor, Raytheon Space and Airborne Systems in El Segundo, Calif. The MP-RTIP sensor has completed radar system level performance verification on a surrogate aircraft, and will be integrated into AF-18 for operational evaluation.

Northrop Grumman is also prime contractor for the NATO Alliance Ground Surveillance (NATO AGS) system, in development at the Melbourne, Florida facility of the Aerospace Systems Battle Management & Engagement Systems division, in which the Block 40 RQ-4 is a key component.

Northrop Grumman's Global Hawk program is based at its Aerospace Systems' Unmanned Systems Development Center in San Diego, Calif. The company performs Global Hawk sub-assembly work at its Unmanned Systems Center in Moss Point, Miss., and final assembly at its Antelope Valley Manufacturing Center in Palmdale.

The principal Global Hawk industry team includes: Aurora Flight Sciences, Bridgeport in West Va. (V-tail assembly and other composite structures); L-3 Communications in Salt Lake City (communication system); Raytheon in Waltham, Mass. (ground station); Rolls-Royce Corp. in Indianapolis (engine); and Vought Aircraft Industries in Dallas (wing).

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