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UAV program expands to Australia

Released: 8 Mar 1999


by Sue Baker
Aeronautical Systems Center Public Affairs

WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio (AFPN) -- The Global Hawk Unmanned Aerial Vehicle, which just completed its 13th successful flight test Feb. 20, will be soaring "down under" by 2001 as part of a $20 million government-to-government, cost-sharing arrangement between the United States and Australia.

The partnership -- which will maximize mutual technology development and interoperability between the countries' unique reconnaissance efforts -- was unveiled in Adelaide, Australia, by Australian Defence Minister John Moore.

The goal of the program is to demonstrate worldwide allied deployment capabilities of the Air Force's High-Altitude Endurance UAV program.

"This is a historic moment for the HAE Global Hawk UAV program," said Col. Craig McPherson, director of the Joint HAE UAV Division at the Aeronautical Systems Center Reconnaissance Systems Program Office here.

"The agreement affords us the unique opportunity to demonstrate, in an overseas deployment, the reconnaissance capabilities of the HAE UAV system and its interoperability with the Australian JP 129 Project.

"For example, in cooperative field exercises in Northern Australia, slated to begin as early as 2001, the Global Hawk system will team with the Defence Forces' new airborne surveillance concept demonstrator to monitor millions of square miles of Australian territory," McPherson said. "These collaborative efforts will provide critical 'lessons learned' for each country's intelligence-gathering and defense networks, as well as advancing the state of reconnaissance operations as a whole."

Through the agreement, the two countries will share technical and operational information about their respective surveillance platforms; sensors; data exploitation; and command, control and communications and intelligence architecture, according to Lt. Col. Steven Umbaugh, project arrangement manager.

"This will increase mutual understanding, while improving each country's surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities," Umbaugh said.

The Global Hawk UAV System consists of two elements: the air vehicle and its associated ground segment. Developed by prime contractor Teledyne Ryan Aeronautical of San Diego, Calif., the air vehicle is a totally autonomous, computer-controlled, 44-foot-long, composite UAV, with a wingspan of 116 feet. Capable of flying up to an altitude of 65,000 feet, it can range 13,500 nautical miles, gathering up to 40 hours of intelligence data using synthetic aperture radar, and electro-optical and infrared radar.

The ground system, through which Global Hawk is controlled and communicates reconnaissance data to ground forces, was developed by Raytheon Systems, Falls Church, Va. The GS is further divided into two units: the launch recovery element and mission control element, each of which plays unique, special roles in the UAV's operation.

"Teaming together, the U.S. Air Force and Australian Defence Forces will develop interface documentation and design changes to permit the JP 129 Australian ground element to receive HAE UAV GS imagery data," Umbaugh said. "The AGE also will be able to transmit requests for imagery data to the GS that may alter the UAV's flight path and sensor coverage."

According to Umbaugh, future Global Hawk technical flight evaluations planned under the agreement include an out-of-continental United States deployment, as well as operational, long-endurance missions over Australian territory to support its system utility assessment.

"Deploying from Edwards Air Force Base (Calif.) in the spring of 2001, Global Hawk will fly approximately 12,000 miles to Australia," Umbaugh said. "There, it will functionally 'mesh' with the JP 129 system to conduct a variety of surveillance and reconnaissance missions over the continent."

"As part of the JP 129 Project, Australia plans to buy an airborne, wide-area surveillance system soon after the turn of the century," Umbaugh said. "These field trials, exercises, and test-flights will help Australia to choose the most useful, cost-effective system to meet additional surveillance needs not covered by JP 129."

During its most recent test flight at Edwards, Global Hawk flew longer and collected more images than ever before, according to Lt. Col. Pat Bolibrzuch, Global Hawk program manager.

"We met all objectives during this flight, which began at 9:50 a.m. (PST) and lasted 12-and-a-half hours, taking Global Hawk up to an altitude of 61,000 feet. Our primary payload goal -- continued checkout of the integrated sensor suite -- was an outstanding success."

Prior to Global Hawk's Australian debut, U.S. Atlantic Command will conduct a military utility assessment as early as April 1, to determine the system's potential for Department of Defense warfighting applications, Bolibrzuch said.

"The MUA will put the UAV system through a wide variety of service level and joint-service exercises, " Bolibrzuch said. "Once the assessment is completed, the technology demonstration portion of this program will end."

RELATED SITES

* Aeronautical Systems Center
* Department of Defense
* Edwards Air Force Base, Calif.
* Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio