Scaled Composites’ Proteus high-altitude, long-endurance manned testbed aircraft has flown with a 16.5m (54ft)-long canoe fitted under its fuselage to simulate the multi-platform radar technology insertion programme (MP-RTIP) sensor and enable initial airworthiness tests.

The Northrop Grumman/Raytheon programme is developing two versions of the MP-RTIP active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar: one to be carried by Northrop’s RQ-4 Global Hawk unmanned air vehicle and a larger version intended for use on the US Air Force’s E-10 multi-sensor command and control aircraft. Flight tests of the radar are set to begin in late September, with the Northrop-owned Proteus being used as a surrogate for the Global Hawk.

The E-10 programme was scaled back to a demonstration by the US Quadrennial Defence Review in February and is now tightly focused on proving sensor technology, USAF Col Dwyer Dennis, commander of the E-10 MP-RTIP group, told a Defense News conference on cruise missile defence in Washington late last month.

On the E-10, the powerful AESA is intended to track cruise missiles and time-sensitive ground targets. The E-10A demonstrator is based on a Boeing 767-400ER, and a green aircraft will be delivered in the first quarter of 2008 for integration of the radar. First flight is expected in 2010. The MP-RTIP programme is “on track and on performance”, says Dennis.

If the US Department of Defense decides to proceed with the E-10, the production platform could be based on another widebody aircraft, Airbus or Boeing, says Dennis, but about 70% of the sensor design would be transferable.

The US Navy’s new E-2D Hawkeye airborne early-warning aircraft, under development by Northrop, will also be capable of being used for cruise missile defence. Its upgraded radar will have greater search volume and better overland performance, while the aircraft will also have expanded communications and extended endurance, the conference was told.

Source: Flight International