25 Feb 16. General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. announced the successful first flight of Predator® B/MQ-9 Reaper® Extended Range (ER) Long Wing, retrofitted with improved long-endurance wings with greater internal fuel capacity and additional hard points for carrying external stores. The flight occurred on February 18 at GA-ASI’s Gray Butte Flight Test Facility in Palmdale, Calif., on a test aircraft.
“Predator B ER’s new 79-foot wing span not only boosts the RPA’s endurance and range, but also serves as proof-of-concept for the next-generation Predator B aircraft that will be designed for Type-Certification and airspace integration,” said Linden Blue, CEO. “The wing was designed to conform to STANAG 4671 [NATO Airworthiness Standard for RPA systems], and includes lightning and bird strike protection, non-destructive testing, and advanced composite and adhesive materials for extreme environments.”
During the flight, Predator B ER Long Wing demonstrated its ability to launch, climb to 7,500 feet (initial flight test altitude), complete basic airworthiness maneuvers, and land without incident. A subsequent test program will be conducted to verify full operational capability.
Developed on Internal Research and Development (IRAD) funds, the new wing span is 13-feet longer, increasing the aircraft’s endurance from 27 hours to over 40 hours. Additional improvements include short-field takeoff and landing performance and spoilers on the wings which enable precision automatic landings. The wings also have provisions for leading-edge de-ice and integrated low- and high-band RF antennas. An earlier version of Predator B ER featuring two wing-mounted fuel tanks is currently operational with the U.S. Air Force as MQ-9 Reaper ER.
The long wings are the first components to be produced as part of GA-ASI’s Certifiable Predator B (CPB) development project, which will lead to a certifiable production aircraft in early 2018. Further hardware and software upgrades planned for CPB will include improved structural fatigue and damage tolerance, more robust flight control software, and enhancements allowing operations in adverse weather.
25 Feb 16. Northrop Grumman Corporation (NYSE:NOC) 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, Calif. facility in cooperation with the U.S. Air Force. Northrop Grumman and the Air Force re