The US Air Force has awarded Northrop Grumman a $24.5 million contact to finish development of the multi platform radar technology insertion programme (MP-RTIP) radar for the Block 40 version of the RQ-4B Global Hawk, the Pentagon announced on 7 March.

"The contract award is to complete development of the MP-RTIP sensor for Global Hawk," Northrop confirms. The company will perform the work at its El Segundo site in California, and should be done by 31 August 2013.

The Block 40 variant of the unmanned surveillance aircraft will use the new radar to create black and white photo-quality images of the Earth's surface while simultaneously overlaying moving ground targets on to that picture.

 Global Hawk Block 40 - Northrop Grumman

© Northrop Grumman

The air force's recently cancelled Block 30 variant also has a synthetic aperture radar mode to create photo-realistic images of the ground, but its capabilities in that regard are not as sophisticated as the Block 40's. The MP-RTIP sensor will also be installed on a future fleet of five Global Hawks under NATO's Alliance Ground Surveillance deal.

The USAF hopes to buy 11 Block 40 Global Hawks, but had at one time wanted as many as 22. The service also operates five Block 20 aircraft, with a sixth having crashed last year in Afghanistan. Some of the Block 20 aircraft are being converted into communications relay platforms.

Additionally, the US Navy is planning to buy 68 MQ-4C broad area maritime surveillance aircraft that are based on the Global Hawk. The naval aircraft have a 360° maritime radar and an electro-optical camera ball, along with some other service-specific sensors and airframe attributes. These include a deicing capability and what is hoped will be the first "sense and avoid" system for an unmanned aircraft.

Source: Flight International