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USAF Global Hawks to get upgraded control system

Raytheon is to upgrade the ground control stations (GCS) of the the US Air Force’s Northrop Grumman RQ-4 Global Hawks, following a $104 million contract award.

New payload controls for the high-altitude, long-endurance (HALE) UAV will be incorporated, and the GCSs will be moved from temporary building to permanent structures at Beale AFB in California and Grand Forks AFB in North Dakota.

A new open architecture will be introduced, which will introduce scalability and allow for the operation of new payloads and platforms. The old system will be gradually phased out, Raytheon says.

“Raytheon is working closely with the air force and our partner, Northrop Grumman, to develop a roadmap for modernisation that will optimise the transition,” Bob Dehnert, senior director for command, control and awareness for Raytheon’s Intelligence, Information and Services business, tells FlightGlobal.

“We anticipate a phased schedule that ensures these systems are effectively integrated for high utilisation. This current Global Hawk ground segment modernisation programme subcontract is through 2019.”

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US Air Force

Dehnert says the modernisation effort is solely focused on the USAF’s requirements and will not be rolled out to export customers. It will, however, be able to support future block upgrades for the air force’s fleet.

Raytheon provides the GCS for the US Navy’s Global Hawk-derived MQ-4C Triton maritime HALE UAV, but that is covered under a different contract, Dehnert notes.

It also builds the control station for the USN’s Northrop MQ-8B rotary-wing UAV, which recently deployed on board the USS Coronado with controls that are common with the open architecture to be incorporated into the RQ-4’s system.

“Raytheon leverages best practices from those other programmes to deliver the best possible value to the air force and navy and ultimately enable commonality across the services,” Dehnert adds.

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