ILA: Germany's first Euro Hawk to fly next month

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Northrop Grumman (display V, stand 674) and EADS (hall 7, stand 100) are exhibiting a full-scale replica of Germany's Euro Hawk unmanned air vehicle at the show, as their prototype system is within weeks of making its first flight in the USA.

A modified version of the US Air Force's Block 20 RQ-4B Global Hawk, the first of Germany's planned five new signals intelligence aircraft on 19 May cleared its "full dress rehearsal" before flying from Palmdale, California, says Jim Kohn, Northrop's Euro Hawk programme director.

This involved the UAV making an aborted take-off from a speed of around 65kt (120km/h), before coming to a halt and shutting down on the runway. Earlier ground runs on 8 April had assessed the air vehicle at taxi speeds of between 6kt and 70kt.

To be equipped with an EADS Defence & Security-developed payload incorporating communication and electronic intelligence-gathering sensors, the fleet will replace the German air force's two Dassault-Breguet Atlantic surveillance aircraft from late 2011.

northrop grumman euro hawk, northrop grumman 
 © Northrop Grumman

Integration testing involving the aircraft, its launch and recovery element equipment at Palmdale and mission control systems at Edwards AFB, California, has also been conducted, along with laboratory trials using a payload emulator.

"All the testing has gone extremely well," says Kohn.

The first flight milestone is expected next month, after personnel from Germany's WTD-61 flight-test centre have completed the paperwork for its preliminary airworthiness certificate, and the US State Department has granted diplomatic clearance.

Unveiled last October, the prototype Euro Hawk will then enter a roughly six-month period of flight testing from Edwards AFB. It had originally been due to fly in mid-2009, and Kohn attributes the delay to "a lot of little things". Northrop's main commitment remains its continued support for the operational needs of the USAF's Global Hawk fleet, he adds.

Kohn expects the Euro Hawk to be flown to Germany in early 2011, with the high-altitude, long-endurance UAV to route over Canada and to the north of the UK before entering German airspace. It should be handed over to the German air force late the same year, with the service's first pilot and maintenance officer for the system already in training in Palmdale.

Northrop expects a decision from Berlin in early 2012 on its planned four production Euro Hawks.

"We are working on different scenarios for funding routes to production," says Kohn. "We want to give our customer maximum flexibility on when they want to buy those air vehicles."