Partnership would develop design similar to Global Hawk

Israel Aircraft Industries (IAI) has approached EADS with a proposal to jointly develop a turbofan-powered high-altitude long-endurance (HALE) unmanned air vehicle in a similar class to Northrop Grumman's RQ-4 Global Hawk.

Sources within the Israeli company say the offer centres on the collaborative development of a new UAV design that will have a mission endurance of 24-36h and an operating ceiling of up to 60,000ft (18,300m).

"The idea is to develop a UAV with performance like the Global Hawk that will carry a much lower price tag," it says.

IAI has yet to reveal further details, but Flight International understands that the company is eyeing an air vehicle with a maximum take-off weight of 6,000kg (13,200lb), almost half that of the US Air Force's current RQ-8A Global Hawk design.

EADS and IAI are already co-operating in marketing the Eagle 1 medium-altitude UAV, which is a further development of the Israeli company's Heron system. Already selected to meet a French armed forces requirement, the Eagle platform can carry a 250kg payload and has an operating endurance of over 30h.

If confirmed, the proposed partnership on HALE UAVs could call into question EADS's burgeoning co-operation with Northrop Grumman on unmanned technologies, which has so far led to plans for the joint development of an international variant of the RQ-4, dubbed the Euro Hawk.

EADS says it has no "concrete" plans to expand its current co-operation with IAI, and that it will look at the progress of its Eagle partnership before considering any new project. However, a source within the company notes: "We wouldn't do anything to hurt our relationship with Northrop Grumman."

The proposed Euro Hawk system is being promoted by the Transatlantic Industrial Proposed Solution team - which includes EADS and Northrop Grumman - as a possible component of NATO's future Alliance Ground Surveillance battlefield reconnaissance capability. A USAir Force RQ-4Adeployed to Germany's Nordholz airbase late last year to conduct a series of trials equipped with an EADS-developed signals intelligence payload in support of this effort (Flight International, 11-17 November 2003).


Source: Flight International