Northrop Grumman has elaborated on the differences between the MQ-4C Broad Area Maritime Surveillance (BAMS) demonstrator aircraft and the planned capabilities of the production aircraft.
Speaking at the Navy League's Sea Air Space Exhibition on 11 April, US Navy Capt Robert Dishman spoke about experiences with BAMS in operational environments.
The two BAMS demonstrators are modified RQ-4A Global Hawks, each boasting a 907kg (2,000lb) payload. The production-standard BAMS aircraft will be larger and carry an additional 453kg of sensors. Though the demonstrators only get 15° coverage from electronic and visual sensors, the production model will have 360° capability and greatly increased sensor range.
Sensor data will be transmitted using commercial and military satellites to a mission control room staffed by four operators and two integrated instructors for training purposes.
The BAMS fleet will be based at the Beale AFB in California, where a central maintenance hub will work on closely with the US Air Force's Global Hawk squadrons. Additional operational bases will be maintained at four other locations - a US east coast Naval Air Station, NAS Sigonella in Sicily, Guam in the Pacific and Al Dhafra in the United Arab Emirates; all international bases currently hosting USAF Global Hawks. The ultimate goal is to keep permanent eyes on certain sectors of ocean.
Dishman also describes the operational history of the BAMS demonstrators, which are currently deployed to Al Dhafra, racking up 24h of flight time every three days in support of naval activities in the region. He specifically mentions flights over the Straits of Hormuz, which separates Iran from the Arabian Peninsula. Over 70% of flight hours in the BAMS programme, which Dishman cites at 4,065h, have been classed as combat sorties.