The UK's Ministry of Defence and Civil Aviation Authority were planning for a demonstration of the Northrop Grumman RQ-4 Global Hawk unmanned air vehicle at this year's Royal International Air Tattoo and the Farnborough air show up until three weeks ago - but a lack of available aircraft foiled the idea.
Plans were so advanced that designated air corridors for ingress into and through UK airspace from the USA had been identified. Wing Commander Andrew Jeffrey, head of UAV operations at the MoD's directorate of air staff, says: "We had the airspace to bring Global Hawk all the way across from the USA, down between Ireland and Scotland into the Cardigan Bay danger area, do some work in there, [and] recover it to RAF Valley."
Several demonstration sorties would have then be flown around the Cardigan Bay area, "but the final piece of airspace that was in place until three weeks ago was to go overhead from West Wales airport in a corridor through the existing structure of the airways [and] land at RAF Fairford [for the Royal Air Tattoo]".
The flights were to be by one of the US Air Force's new Block 10 Global Hawks, and would have represented the first flying appearance of the UAV at a major international air show.
Speaking at last week's Shephard Unmanned Vehicles Europe 2006 conference in London, Jeffrey said: "For the demonstrations we were not just going to leave it on the ground, but physically we had two boxes planned where we could have got the thing airborne, segregated it from the manned display, and taken things forward."
Flight corridors had also been identified for participation in the Farnborough show, says Northrop, with the plans calling for the UAV to carry out low-level fly-bys at both shows.