Northrop Grumman Corporation has begun flight testing of the MS-177 sensor payload with a successful inaugural flight on an RQ-4 Global Hawk high altitude long endurance autonomous aircraft system. The flight tests mark the first time the sensor has been flown on a high altitude long-range autonomous aircraft and extend the mission capabilities of the system. The MS-177 sensor is designed to provide capabilities to not only «find» targets using broad area search and different sensing technologies, but to also fix, track, and assess targets through its agility and multiple sensing modalities.
The MS-177 testing is expected to continue through the first half of 2017. The successful flight test at Northrop Grumman’s Palmdale, California facility follows the demonstrations of two sensors previously unavailable on the Global Hawk. Northrop Grumman successfully flew a Senior Year Electro-optical Reconnaissance System-2 (SYERS-2) intelligence gathering sensor in February 2016 and has recently completed flight tests of the Optical Bar Camera.
«The MS-177 is the new benchmark in imaging Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) sensors and its integration into the Global Hawk platform expands the mission capability we can provide», said Mick Jaggers, vice president and program manager, Global Hawk program, Northrop Grumman. «This successful flight is another milestone in an aggressive effort to demonstrate Global Hawk’s versatility and effectiveness in carrying a variety of sensor payloads and support establishing Open Mission Systems (OMS) compliancy».
The Global Hawk system is the premier provider of persistent intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance information. Able to fly at high altitudes for greater than 30 hours, Global Hawk is designed to gather near-real-time, high-resolution imagery of large areas of land in all types of weather – day or night. In active operation with the U.S. Air Force since 2001, Global Hawk has amassed more than 200,000 flight hours with missions flown in support of military and humanitarian operations.
Northrop Grumman Corporation successfully flew a SYERS-2 intelligence gathering sensor on an RQ-4 Global Hawk high altitude long endurance Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS), marking the first time the legacy U.S. Air Force sensor has been demonstrated on a high altitude unmanned aircraft.
With the success of the SYERS-2 flight, Northrop Grumman plans to fly an Optical Bar Camera (OBC) sensor and an MS-177 multi-spectral sensor later in the year. Payload integration is not new to Global Hawk. NASA has successfully integrated and flown over 30 different information-gathering payloads on Global Hawk.
Existing models of the U.S Air Force Global Hawk are capable of carrying an Enhanced Integrated Sensor Suite (EISS), Airborne Signals Intelligence Payload (ASIP) and Multi-Platform Radar Technology Insertion Program (MP-RTIP). The addition of legacy and future sensors is made possible by Northrop Grumman’s innovative Universal Payload Adapter (UPA), a bracket that mounts to an existing Global Hawk airframe, allowing it to support a wide variety of payloads.
«This SYERS-2 flight is only the beginning. We firmly believe that with the addition of the UPA, Global Hawk is capable of flying any mission the U.S. Air Force requires», said Mick Jaggers, vice president and program manager, Global Hawk unmanned aircraft system programs, Northrop Grumman. «Northrop Grumman is funding this study in order to prove that the system can affordably carry the same sensors as any other Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) aircraft. We look forward to continuing to work with our Air Force partners on this groundbreaking solution».
Flight tests are taking place at Northrop Grumman’s Palmdale, California facility in cooperation with the U.S. Air Force. Northrop Grumman and the Air Force reached a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA) last year that allows the company to test previously unavailable sensors on the Global Hawk.
Northrop Grumman’s high altitude long endurance UAS series have exceeded more than 160,000 total flight hours. The system’s cost per flight hour has fallen to half that of the manned competitor.