Global Hawk to join Atlantic coast experiment

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One of two unmanned air vehicles for the US Navy’s Global Hawk maritime demonstration (GHMD) is being prepared to participate in the Joint Expeditionary Force Experiment (JEFX) 2006 off the US Atlantic coast at the end of this month. The navy’s first Northrop Grumman RQ-4A arrived at NAS Patuxent River, Maryland on 28 March after a transcontinental flight from Edwards AFB, California. The service’s second aircraft is still at the site undergoing modification. For the GHMD, two production RQ-4As have been modified with maritime radar modes and a signals intelligence sensor.

During the JEFX joint operations exercise, the Global Hawk will demonstrate long-endurance maritime surveillance and intelligence dissemination using existing USN information systems. The GHMD is intended to develop the operating concept for the service’s planned Broad Area Maritime Surveillance unmanned aircraft system, a request for proposals for which is expected late this year.

During JEFX, the first RQ-4A will be flown from Patuxent River, where a launch and recovery element is located, but its sensors will be operated from a US Air Force mission control element at Edwards AFB, as the navy’s own ground station will be delivered later. The Global Hawk received military airworthiness certification from the USAF and the Federal Aviation Administration has issued a certificate of authorisation allowing operations on the US East Coast.

GRAHAM WARWICK / WASHINGTON DC