Endurance UAV set for reconfiguration of signals intelligence suite for future service with German air force

EADS and Northrop Grumman have made major changes to the configuration of the signals intelligence (SIGINT) suite to be carried by the German air force's planned Eurohawk unmanned air vehicles.

Key changes include a relocation of the single omnidirectional electronic intelligence (ELINT) antenna from the aircraft's forward payload bay to its rear fuselage or rear payload bay. Two high-band spinning communications intelligence (COMINT) antennas will also be moved from planned nose and tail mountings to underwing fairings and given a secondary ELINT function. Located centre-wing, these will be separate from the Eurohawk's inboard wing undercarriage fairings, which distinguish the baseline Northrop RQ-4B Global Hawk airframe from the US Air Force's smaller RQ-4A.

The forward interferometer arrays used during a joint USAF-German air force ELINT payload demonstration in northern Germany in late 2003 will be replaced with significantly larger broadband arrays monitoring frequencies over a 0.5GHz range. The increased size of the arrays has necessitated their relocation from the forward payload bay to positions integrated in the upper forward flanks of the UAV's fuselage.

The secondary COMINT array, which was to have been located in the forward section of the Global Hawk's synthetic-aperture radar (SAR) fairing, will be moved into the forward payload bay to the former omni antenna position. Previous wing-mounted COMINT fin antennas will also be moved into the forward fuselage beneath the SAR fairing, while the aircraft's main COMINT circular array will be moved forward from its original position in the wing root to occupy the rear section of the SAR fairing.

Partially revised layout arrangements for the sensor suite were unveiled at the Flight International/Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International Unmanned Systems Europe 2005 conference in Cologne earlier this month. Programme engineers at EADS Defence and Security Systems say the changes result from ongoing work to minimise electromagnetic interference between suite components and that further adjustments are still possible.

Source: Flight International