RQ-4B Global Hawk
Initial Operational Capability (IOC):
1 March 2007
Also Known As: EQ-4B and RQ-4 Block 20 Global Hawk
Origin: United States of America
L-3 Communications, Northrop Grumman* and Raytheon (*) lead contractor
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Description: The RQ-4 Global Hawk is a high-altitude, long-endurance (HALE) unmanned aircraft with an integrated sensor suite that provides intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) capabilities all over the world. The RQ-4 program was developed for the United States Air Force (USAF) by Northrop Grumman in the 1990s and will eventually replace the venerable U-2 manned reconnaissance aircraft. The program started as an advanced concept technology demonstrator (ACTD) in 1995 with the aim to deliver an all-weather, day/night, wide-area surveillance system. The first aircraft was delivered to the USAF in November 2001 to support the Global War on Terror (GWOT) with the RQ-4 system reaching full operational capability by 2012. USAF plans call for the procurement of 77 aircraft (cut down to 66 aircraft in 2011) with the US Navy to procure an undisclosed number of RQ-4Ns beginning in 2014. Germany is the first export customer with five Euro Hawks on order.
The Global Hawk system consists of the RQ-4 air vehicle; mission control element (MCE) with two workstations for a pilot and a sensor operator crew; launch and recovery element (LRE) also operated by pilot with his workstation acting as the cockpit; a wide variety of sensors; command and control links covering health and status of the aircraft, sensors, navigational systems and communication links; support element; and trained personnel. The Imagery Intelligence (IMINT) sensors include synthetic aperture radar, electro-optical and medium-wave infrared sensors, and active electronically scanned array radar. The system offers a wide variety of employment options. The long range and endurance of this system allow tremendous flexibility in meeting mission requirements. In the United States Department of Defense (DoD) parlance 'R' refers to Reconnaissance and 'Q' refers to unmanned aircraft system.
The RQ-4B Global Hawk, or Global Hawk Block 20, is an improved version of the proven RQ-4A Global Hawk Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV). The B model is bigger and heavier with a 50 percent increase in payload capacity from 2,000-lb to 3,000-lb and operates with two-and-a-half times the electrical power than the Block 10. In addition to the ISS electro-optical sensors integrated onto the RQ-4A, the RQ-4B will be able to accommodate SIGINT (Signal Intelligence) payloads for enhanced ISR capabilities as well as the Multi-Platform Radar Technology Insertion Program (MP-RTIP) radar system and future payloads while retaining A-model performance. Nevertheless, the B model falls behind the RQ-4A in terms of speed and range.
On 12 July 2005, the US Air Force awarded Northrop-Grumman Global Hawk low rate initial production Lot 4 contract valued at $273 million for four RQ-4B Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), enhanced sensor suites, one mission control element, one launch recovery element, support equipment and spares. The items deliveries were expected to be completed by July 2008. In November 2005 the USAF awarded Northrop-Grumman a $60 million contract to begin production on five RQ-4B Global Hawk Unmanned Aerial Systems with vehicles assembly expected to start in early 2006. The first production Block 20 aircraft carried out its maiden flight on March 1, 2007.
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