18 Mar 11. A Northrop-built RQ-4 Global Hawk drone is set to fly over Japan’s damaged Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear plant to collect data and imagery, USAF deputy chief Lieutenant General Herbert Carlisle has said.
“The Global Hawk has great capability across the spectrum of military
operations. Its tremendous contribution in this humanitarian assistance disaster relief operation is a testament to its value to the US and our allies,” he added.
The high-altitude, long-endurance unmanned aircraft will help assess damage to towns, industrial infrastructure and other facilities affected during the earthquake and subsequent flooding. The aircraft is equipped with sensors and cameras that can take infrared, electro-optical images and detailed synthetic aperture radar-based pictures. A powerful earthquake struck north-eastern Japan on 11 March, triggering a massive tsunami in Miyagi Prefecture. (Source: airforcetechnology.com)
14 Mar 11. The U.S. Navy’s second X-47B Unmanned Combat Air System (UCAS) will be able to withstand all of the structural stresses and strains associated with takeoff, flight and landing — including those uniquely linked with landing or taking off from the moving, pitching deck of an aircraft carrier. That’s the conclusion of an analysis by a Navy/Northrop Grumman Corporation test team following a rigorous, five-week series of structural proof tests of the jet’s airframe. The tests on X-47B air vehicle 2 (AV-2), conducted at Northrop Grumman’s X-47B assembly and test facility in Palmdale, were completed Jan. 24, one week ahead of schedule. Northrop Grumman is the Navy’s prime contractor for the Unmanned Combat Air System — Demonstration (UCAS-D) program. AV-2 is identical to the first X-47B UCAS demonstration aircraft (AV-1) — which successfully completed its historic 29-minute first flight at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif. on Feb. 4 — except that it will be equipped with aerial refuelling equipment. Northrop Grumman plans to use AV-2 to demonstrate unmanned air-to-air refuelling — using both the U.S. Air Force’s boom/receptacle approach and the Navy’s probe and drogue approach — in 2014 as part of a technology demonstration related to the current UCAS-D contract. The proof testing performed on AV-2 simulated eight design conditions, such as a 3-G symmetrical pull up and a 2.4G rolling pullout; and five conditions expected to occur on the ground, including takeoff and landing, said Sarah Beaudin, Northrop Grumman’s AV-2 manager. One of the ground tests included pulling on the nose gear (to simulate a catapult launch) and the tail hook (to simulate an arrested landing on the carrier deck) at the same time to provide a special combined load case for test with the required margins. One of the flight conditions simulated the forces produced by turbulence that could occur during air-to-air refuelling, a more demanding requirement than that used to proof test AV-1 in 2009.
17 Mar 11. Less than a month after completing the first flight of the U.S. Navy’s X-47B UCAS-Demonstration aircraft, flight test engineers from Northrop Grumman Corporation and the Navy have successfully completed the aircraft’s second and third flights. The flights, both conducted at Edwards Air Force Base, mark the beginning of a process called envelope expansion during which the test team will begin proving that the tailless aircraft can perform safely over a broad range of altitudes, air speeds and operating weights. During the X-47B’s 39-minute second flight on March 1, the aircraft flew to an altitude of 7,500 feet at speeds up to 200 knots. During its 41-minute third flight on March 4, the aircraft reached an altitude of 7,500 feet and a top speed of 180 knots. By comparison, the X-47B flew only to 5,000 feet at a top speed of 180 knots during its first flight Feb 4.
16 Mar 11. Northrop Grumman Corporation completed the first of three fuselages for the Broad Area Maritime Surveillance Unmanned Aircraft System (BAMS UAS) Sys