German manufacturer argues its manned G600 concept could be up to 90% cheaper than ‘dumb’ Global Hawk UAV

German basic trainer and general aviation manufacturer Grob Aerospace expects to resurrect its high-altitude, long-endurance (HALE) product line next year after receiving “substantial” European military interest in its G600.

The Bavarian company launched the concept of a stretched version of its G180 SPn business jet at the Paris air show in June and has been “overwhelmed” with interest, the company says. Chief operating officer Andreas Strohmayer says Grob is talking to European and Middle Eastern nations with requirements for improved surveillance for anti-terrorism operations.

He says the aircraft could cost 90% less than Northrop Grumman’s RQ-4B Global Hawk unmanned air vehicle, despite requiring two pilots.

“Many countries are rethinking their strategy for satellite surveillance and reconsidering HALE aircraft as an alternative to unmanned platforms,” says Strohmayer. The G600 would have benefits over a UAV as its pilots can manoeuvre the aircraft over points of interest quicker than retasking the UAV via datalink, he adds. “The Global Hawk is just dumb; it takes photos. It’s a very American way of using resources and is very expensive in terms of bandwidth to stream those photos back, so maybe it’s better to have crew selecting preliminary data.”

Grob’s history in high-altitude research aircraft includes the G520 Strato 1 and G850 Strato 2C commissioned by the German research institute DLR in the late 1980s for communications monitoring, geophysical research and weather observation.

The company has almost completed airframe design and would launch full-scale prototyping having secured one launch customer. Grob estimates a period of 13 months from project launch to first flight, with a further 11 months needed to secure full certification, making it an interim measure for countries involved in European UAV concepts, says Strohmayer.

The G600 has a wingspan of 35.6m (116ft), a payload capacity of 1,200kg (2,650lb) and a projected 33h endurance. The aircraft would use the G180’s current Williams FJ44-4A turbofans to reach an altitude of 65,000ft and have a useful range of around 10,000km (5,540nm). Grob is looking for partners on the project and is talking to system suppliers in “traditional high-technology countries” in the Middle East for on-board equipment, it says.


Source: Flight International