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By Julian Nettlefold

Euro Hawk® Unmanned Aircraft Shows Stamina with 30-Hour Flight

17 Dec 10. News that the Northrop Grumman Euro Hawk®, the premier unmanned aircraft system (UAS) for the German Air Force, successfully proved its long endurance capability with a 30.3-hour flight over Edwards Air Force Base, California underlines the strength and the breadth of the Global Hawk system around the world. Built by Northrop Grumman Corporation and EADS Deutschland GmbH, operating through Cassidian, the defence and security division of EADS, the high-flying UAS took off Dec. 1 at 4:47 p.m. PST and landed Dec. 2 at approximately 10:59 p.m. PST.

“Soaring up to 60,000 feet, the Euro Hawk® performed beautifully and has logged nearly 100 total flight hours since its maiden flight approximately five months ago,” said Duke Dufresne, sector vice president and general manager of the Strike and Surveillance Systems Division for Northrop Grumman’s Aerospace Systems sector. “This flight not only demonstrated the aircraft’s endurance capability, but it also enabled the team to collect crucial communications data points.”

The Euro Hawk® is the first international configuration of the RQ-4 Global Hawk high-altitude, long-endurance UAS. It also demonstrates the remarkable team spirit uniting Northrop Grumman and EADS Deutschland GmbH/Cassidian.

“This milestone is a significant step towards completion of the ferry flight to Germany next year,” said Nicolas Chamussy, senior vice president of Unmanned Aerial Systems for Cassidian. “The aircraft will undergo additional flight testing in Germany before being delivered to the German Air Force by the end of 2011 to replace the fleet of manned Breguet Atlantic aircraft which went out of service this year.”

Based on the Block 20 configuration, the Euro Hawk® will be equipped with a signals intelligence mission system developed by Cassidian, providing standoff capability to detect electronic and communications emitters.

“We are very excited to soon have Euro Hawk® flying over German skies and providing airborne wide-area surveillance and reconnaissance,” said Neset Tuekenmez, chief executive officer of the EuroHawk GmbH. “This trans-Atlantic cooperation has been a long time coming since the effort began in August 2000 and the contract awarded in 2007.”

Delivery of four subsequent systems is anticipated between 2015 and 2016 following successful testing and introduction in German operational service.

This news comes hard on the heels of developments in the NATO AGS system based on the Block 40 Global Hawk with the Northrop Grumman/Raytheon MP-RTIP radar and Ground Station supplied by member companies including GD Canada, EADS, Selex Galileo and EADS. Northrop Grumman will supply the Air Vehicle Management Command and Control (AVMC2) system. All the IPR transfer on the project is agreed under offset and ITAR issues have been resolved. The six systems will be co-located and sustained at Sigonella in Italy with U.S. Navy BAMS and USAF Global Hawks.

The U.S. Air Force’s first Block 40 Global Hawk just received its MP-RTIP sensor and will begin full system flights early next year.

The surprise announcement in the U.K. SDSR on the retirement of the Sentinel fleet post-Afghanistan leaves a gap in the U.K.’s ability for High Altitude, Long Endurance surveillance missions. In addition the Sentinel fleet was seen as ‘payment in kind’ for access to the NATO AGS capability. With Sentinel gone that avenue appears to have been shut off. Has Thales convinced the MoD that the Hermes 450 Watchkeeper system can fulfil the Sentinel and/or Global Hawk mission? Having said this, there is talk of the U.K. being offered a possible Global Hawk lease deal, but with limited funds and BAE pushing for a joint UK/Franco HALE solution, this may not be the way forward.

Bob Zeiser of Northrop Grumman told BATTLESPACE that NATO AGS was one of the top ten initiatives

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