General Atomics plans to offer vehicle to challenge Northrop Grumman's RQ-4A Global Hawk for the US Navy

General Atomics has revealed a proposed extended-endurance derivative of its MQ-9A Predator B unmanned air vehicle. It plans to offer the proposed vehicle as a challenge to Northrop Grumman's larger RQ-4A Global Hawk for the US Navy's Broad Area Maritime Surveillance (BAMS) requirement.

The USN is seeking a high-altitude, long-endurance UAV to enter service in 2009 as an intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance adjunct to the Lockheed Martin P-3C Orion and its replacement, the Multi-mission Maritime Aircraft.

The Honeywell TPE331 turboprop-powered Predator B-ER meets most of the navy's notional performance requirements, with a maximum endurance of 49h and a ceiling of 50,000ft (15,250m), but at 170kt (315km/h) falls short of the desired cruise speed (Flight International, 30 December-5 January).

General Atomics is looking at a turbojet-powered version, which although faster at 190kt, has 20h less endurance. Compared to the US Air Force's MQ-9A, the B-ER carries extra fuel in a conformal saddle tank and has an extended 26.2m- span wing borrowed from NASA's Altair UAV. The maximum take-off weight has increased to 5,000kg (11,000lb), including 1,360kg external payload and 455kg of mission equipment.

The B-ER will cost $4 million, compared with Northrop Grumman's advertised RQ-4 fly away cost of $24.3 million. The faster and higher-flying Global Hawk can cover 765,130km2 (223,560nm2) over 3h with a synthetic aperture radar (SAR), or 10 times the MQ-9A's area, claims Northrop Grumman. It adds that the RQ-4A can generate up to 25kVA of electrical power to support a 1,360kg sensor payload, compared to the B-ER's 9kVA.

The B-ER features a podded 360° radar. Candidates include the Elta EL/M-2022, Northrop Grumman APY-6, Raytheon SeaVue or Telephonics APS-147. Electro-optical/ infrared (EO/IR) sensors being considered include the Wescam MX-20, Raytheon AAS-52 or MTS-B and Sonoma 478. Signals intelligence systems under study comprise a derivative of ITT's ALQ-211 suite of integrated RF countermeasures, Northrop Grumman LR-100 and Raytheon ALR-69U, while communications intelligence would be a choice between the BAE Hyper Wide or Raytheon Batfish II.

Northrop Grumman, under a separate contract, will deliver two RQ-4As to the USN in 2005 for demonstration. These will initially be equipped with the US Air Force's SAR/EO/IR sensor suite.

The company plans to add a belly-mounted radar and is understood to be discussing a derivative of Raytheon's APG-79 active electronic scanned array planned for the Boeing F/A-18E/F.

Source: Flight International