The Global Hawk Tier II Plus high-altitude reconnaissance platform was expected to have its first engine runs in the week beginning 16 December, as part of final preparations for completion in January and roll-out in early February 1997.

The Global Hawk, with its 35.4m wingspan, was originally scheduled to be rolled out earlier this year and have its first flight this month. This was put back, however, following the take-off accident of the Lockheed Martin/Boeing-built, DarkStar unmanned air vehicle (UAV) for the parallel Tier III Minus effort.

"This caused us to re-assess the flight-control system and the methodology," says Teledyne Ryan Aeronautical, which leads the Global Hawk effort. A first flight is now scheduled for late April or early May 1997. The UAV is expected to have an endurance of 40h and a range of more than 24,000km (13,000nm).

Air vehicle one will carry ballast in place of the sensor package, which includes an all-weather Hughes synthetic-aperture radar/ moving-target indicator, a high-resolution electro-optical camera and an infra-red sensor. Air vehicle two, to be flown several weeks later, will carry the full package, which will be retrofitted into the first UAV. Both will be involved in an 18-month flight-test programme.

A decision is also expected by the end of January on Phase Three of the Tier II Plus, funded by the US Defense Airborne Reconnaissance Office, covering the construction of a further eight UAVs.

Source: Flight International