Northrop Grumman and EADS (European Aeronautic Defence and Space) have expanded their business alliance to encompass cooperation on high-altitude, long-endurance unmanned air vehicles (HALE UAVs).

The companies will form a joint project team to evaluate a common unmanned system approach to meeting urgent intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance requirements identified by individual European countries under the NATO Defence Capabilities Initiative. The US company's Global Hawk will be one option studied.


Development of the Global Hawk to meet a US Air Force reconnaissance requirement is expected to begin in September after a successful technology demonstration. Engineering and manufacturing development will take only a year and cost just $75 million as air vehicles built for the demonstration will be reused. Production of up to 48 vehicles is set to begin in 2003.

The US Navy, meanwhile, has awarded Northrop Grumman a contract to study the use of UAVs as an adjunct to manned maritime patrol aircraft. Under the Broad Area Maritime Surveillance (BAMS) contract, the company will study how long-endurance UAVs can be used to reduce the number or sophistication of manned aircraft required.

The BAMS study is part of the USN's Multi-Mission Maritime Aircraft project, under which Boeing, Lockheed Martin and Raytheon have been awarded contracts to study new aircraft and upgrade solutions to replacing Lockheed P-3s.

BAMS is the latest potential application identified for the Global Hawk, which has a 32h endurance and 65,000ft (19,900m) altitude capability. Additional roles being considered by the air force include signals intelligence and, later as a communications relay platform.

Northrop Grumman says the Global Hawk "Block 10" configuration planned for full-rate production will allow different payloads to the plugged into the air vehicle.

Source: Flight International