20 Jun 11. For the second year in a row, Northrop Grumman officials found themselves at a global air show explaining why the Global Hawk UAV wasn’t performing up to Pentagon expectations. In the wake of a DoD test report that noted deficiencies in nine areas, Northrop’s top Global Hawk salesman, Edward Walby, took to a chalet podium at Paris Air Show 2011 to give the company’s side of the story.
“When you have a system designed by engineers, made by a manufacturer, tested by evaluators, and certified by administrators, then you put it in the hands of troops, you get an entirely different picture,” Walby said.
He was referring to the Global Hawk’s unexpected deployments in March – to Japan to support the post-tsunami relief efforts, and to Libya to help U.S. and NATO operations against government troops. The operations catapulted the latest RQ-4B model, the Block 30, into real-world operations, where the aircraft produced performances that looked much better than the IOT&E report, Walby said. For example, the testers watched the RQ-4 fly 19 sorties over 41 days, with mission effectiveness of 57 percent. But in “March Madness,” as Northrop dubbed the intense first month of Libya/Japan ops, the UAVs flew 114 sorties in 45 days with a 92.1 percent mission effectiveness, Walby said. That’s a level of performance far beyond the expected for an aircraft that hasn’t reached its formal acceptance into service.
“We’re not supposed to be doing that yet,” he said.
What made the difference? One major thing was simply the passage of time, Walby said. The IOT&E testers looked at aircraft with the mid-2010 equipment and software builds. Since then, Northrop has fixed a leaky oil pump and improved the software in various ways. One Block 10 aircraft was aloft a total of 379 hours in March – more than half of the hours in the month. Over Japan, two Global Hawks passed in the air, demonstrating the first on-station swap. The post-tsunami ops also saw the operation debut of the Block 30 Global Hawk, whose 3,000-pound payload includes electro-optical/infrared cameras, radar, moving-target indicators, and signals intelligence gear. Next up for the suddenly hyperactive Global Hawk?
*Block 30 is slated to be declared initially operational in July.
*The first Euro Hawk, now finishing up testing at Edwards AFP, Calif., is slated to fly over to Germany later this summer.
*Two Global Hawks are to attempt the world’s first autonomous aerial refuelling between UAVs in late summer or early autumn. (Source: Defense News)
20 Jun 11. At Le Bourget 2011, SELEX Galileo, a Finmeccanica company, put its Falco EVO Unmanned Aerial System (UAS) on display for the first time. Without changing the airframe of the current Falco high end Tactical Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (TUAV), Falco EVO features extended wings to ensure longer endurance and an increased payload capacity. This expands the spectrum of tactical missions the UAS can carry out, offering greater flexibility to customers. The product on display features the actual Falco airframe, with extended wings and ‘visible’ payloads (specially glass-encased for viewing) such as the PicoSAR AESA radar, EOST 46 multi-sensor turret and the new, compact ESM/ELINT SAGE, all part of the SELEX Galileo product portfolio. The current EVO configuration allows for additional payloads without requiring modification of the airframe or engine. Falco EVO, which will be available as an upgrade package for the current baseline Falco, features a 12,5m wing span and a MTOW of 650 kg. The benefits of this enhancement are equally shared between the payload capability, now increased to 100kg, and the maximum endurance, which is in excess of 18 hours. Offline target data evaluation and processing have been further enhanced in order to allow data diffusion through the C4I net in STANAG 4609 format. Real Time data can also be received by small front line units via portable or fixed Remote Video Terminals (RVT).
17 Jun 11. World Sur