Guy Norris/LOS ANGELES Peter le Franchi/CANBERRA

Australian and US Government-to-Government negotiations over Australian Defence Force participation in the Teledyne Ryan Global Hawk long-endurance unmanned air vehicle (UAV) are virtually complete and may result in a formal agreement by the end of December, according to programme sources.

Australian interest in the UAV centres on the proposed JP129 joint reconnaissance programme which covers the use of manned and unmanned reconnaissance assets for close-in and wide-area surveillance. The UAV would be part of the wide-area surveillance system which would cover large areas of Australia's more remote northern regions in Queensland, the Northern Territory and Western Australia.

The UAV requirement is endorsed in the Australia's Strategic Policy document, which describes as a "priority-acquiring long-endurance UAVs with a variety of sensor payloads".

Teledyne Ryan says: "Preliminary meetings between the Australian Department of Defence and the US Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) took place at the roll-out in February". In the wake of these meetings, the Australian Defence Science and Technology Organisation is understood to have begun a detailed analysis resulting in the recommendation that it should seek to become a development partner.

Consequently, the Global Hawk would become a fully integrated part of the Australian reconnaissance system while this is still in its infancy, rather than a late addition.

The first Global Hawk is nearing the end of medium-speed taxi tests at Edwards AFB, California, and is on target for a first flight in mid-January 1998, says Teledyne Ryan. "The taxi tests are going well," says the company, which expects the large UAV to attain speeds of up to 65kt (120km/h) for this phase of the tests. High-speed taxi tests up to 90kt are planned later this month. "We're steering well clear of the lift-off speed, which is 124kt," says the manufacturer. Low-speed tests were completed at 6kt, 12kt and 20kt, with autonomous navigation demonstrated on the ground during a series of manoeuvres including serpentine and straight runs up to 2,300m (7,500ft) in length.

Progress has been slower than expected owing to flooding of the dry-lake bed and a busy phase of flight-testing at the base.

Source: Flight International