A risk-reduction prototype version of the Northrop Grumman-led multi-platform radar technology insertion programme (MP-RTIP) sensor for the RQ-4B Global Hawk unmanned air vehicle and Boeing E-10A Multi-sensor Command and Control Aircraft (MC2A) is close to completion. It may be powered up next month in time for a planned mid-June final design review.
The design review is a milestone for the MP-RTIP radar system, work on which is picking up with the award of a six-year, $888 million US Air Force contract for the system development and demonstration (SDD) phase. SDD, or Phase II, follows the completion of Phase I, which was awarded to Northrop Grumman and teammate Raytheon in 2000.
The new phase will cover construction of six MP-RTIP development radars; three for Global Hawk and three for the E-10A.
The first of these units will be developed from the risk-reduction, or "single-string" version now in final assembly. "We plan to radiate this summer, hopefully in time for final design review," says Northrop Grumman MP-RTIP programme manager Dave Mazur, who adds that some development units will be flight tested while others will be evaluated in the company's systems integration laboratory. Flight tests of the first radar for the Global Hawk will begin at Mojave, California in the last quarter of 2005 on the Scaled Composites Proteus, which Northrop Grumman is acquiring for the purpose.
Flight tests on the manned testbed are set to last for one year, with the first MP-RTIP due to become airborne on the Global Hawk in late 2007 or early 2008. "Then we will go into testing on the E-10A," says Mazur. Assuming production gets the go-ahead around 2008, Mazur expects to begin assembling the initial batch of production-representative radars in 2010, with six units for the E-10A fleet and 12 for the Global Hawk.
Initially aimed at providing an advanced ground moving target indicator (GMTI) successor to the Northrop Grumman E-8 Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System (Joint STARS), the electronically scanned array MP-RTIP radar has evolved to embrace additional features including an air moving target indicator mode. This will enable it to track low-flying cruise missiles and other relatively slow moving airborne targets. Using powerful processors, the electronically scanned antenna will be able to collect GMTI data and synthetic aperture radar ground images almost simultaneously.
Raytheon, which is producing both hardware and software for the MP-RTIP, is also developing a similar capability for the APG-79 AESA radar now under test for the Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet (Flight International, 4-10 May).
GUY NORRIS / LOS ANGELES
Source: Flight International