U.S. negotiating with South Korea to fly Global Hawk near DMZ

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The U.S. is negotiating with South Korea to fly the RQ-4 Global Hawk surveillance drone near the Demilitarized Zone, a move that could provide an unprecedented view of goings-on in reclusive North Korea and draw the ire of China.

South Korea is among a large group of nations in the region with whom U.S. officials are negotiating for flyover rights, according to Lt. Col. Terran Reneau, chief of intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance for the 13th Air Force in Hawaii. Reneau did not give a timetable for the negotiations with the South Koreans but added: “I think we are very close” to flying in Korea.

Global Hawk will likely fly over land in Korea as soon as agreements have been solidified to do that,” added Lt. Col. David Gerhardt, Pacific Air Forces’ chief of command and control, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance requirements.

Gerhardt did not name other nations in negotiations over Global Hawk flyover rights but said those closest to Guam with potential emergency landing sites are among the first to be approached by the U.S.

South Korean officials would not comment on the Global Hawk issue.

South Korean media have also reported that Seoul is interested in buying its own Global Hawks, which carry long-range and infrared cameras, RADAR and listening devices that can intercept foreign military signals.

Once approved to use the South’s airways, the Global Hawk’s cameras could focus on places where experts believe the North might be developing weapons of mass destruction.

Not surprisingly, the Chinese appear to be working on their own version of the Global Hawk. Photographs of a Chinese drone — dubbed the Xianglong, which bears a striking resemblance to Northop Grumman’s aircraft — were posted in June on websites that monitor the Chinese military.

Source: Stars and Stripes


Museum of Aviation gets RQ-4 Global Hawk

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A C-5 Galaxy is expected to bring a recently retired RQ-4 Global Hawk, a large unmanned aircraft, to be put on display at the Museum of Aviation. The delivery of the aircraft is expected next week.

While still a relatively new aircraft, the Global Hawk is being heavily used in combat operations. The  Global Hawk complements manned and space reconnaissance systems by providing near-real-time coverage using imagery intelligence or IMINT, sensors.

Global Hawk began as an Advanced Concept Technology Demonstration in 1995. The system was determined to have military utility and provide warfighters with an evolutionary high-altitude, long-endurance ISR capability. While still a developmental system, the Global Hawk deployed operationally to support the global war on terrorism in November 2001. The Global Hawk UAS provides near-continuous all-weather, day/night, wide area surveillance and will eventually replace the U-2.

According to museum spokesman Bob Dubiel, the aircraft the museum is getting has flown a fleet-high 357 combat sorties for a total of 7,074 hours. It was part of the original Block 10 Global Hawks, and the Air Force recently decided to retire those in favor of the newer Block 20 and Block 30 Global Hawks.

The RQ-4 aircraft will arrive partially disassembled. After undergoing reassembly and restoration, it will be placed in the Century of Flight Hangar, suspended from the ceiling.

Source: macon.com, USAF

Obama administration moves to sell Global Hawks to South Korea

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The Obama administration has begun consulting Congress on intention to sell four RQ-4 Global Hawk Block 30 surveillance planes to South Korea.

South Korea has been under pressure to boost surveillance capabilities over North Korea after two attacks against it killed 50 people last year, driving tensions on the Korean peninsula to the highest levels in decades.

Northrop Grumman, which builds the high-flying, long-endurance airframe said Seoul was considering buying four RQ-4 Global Hawk “Block 30″ drones, which can carry intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance payloads.

There was no immediate word on when formal notification of a proposed sale might take place, nor on the potential overall value. Deliveries could take place in 2014 and 2015 if a government-to-government deal is signed this year, Gemma Loochkartt, a company spokeswoman, said by email on Wednesday.

The RQ-4 Block 30 airframes sell for roughly $30 million apiece, not including their payloads. The State Department declined to comment pending formal notification of a proposed Global Hawk sale to Congress.The U.S. Air Force, which would broker the deal, and South Korea’s embassy in Washington also had no immediate comment.

An official at the South Korean Defense Ministry’s procurement agency said it remains interested in acquiring the aircraft system and is waiting for Washington to have a formal go-ahead to negotiate the sale.

“Our interest is based on the operational need of our military,” the official said.

The head of the Defense Acquisition Program Administration Noh Dae-lae had earlier expressed concern about the system’s reliability after reports about the aircraft’s technical shortfalls in May.

Source: Reuters

First EURO HAWK arrives in Germany

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The first high-altitude, long-endurance (HALE), signals intelligence (SIGINT) unmanned aircraft system (UAS) based on the RQ-4 Global Hawk for the German Bundeswehr, successfully touched down in Manching, Germany last week.

The EURO HAWK took off on July 20 at 2:50 PDT from Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., and landed at 10:06 Central European Summer Time July 21 in Manching Air Base. It will carry a new SIGINT mission system developed by EADS Deutschland GmbH (Cassidian) and integrated in Manching, Germany.

“Today’s arrival of the EURO HAWK on German soil marks a significant step in delivering this highly capable and unique system to the Bundeswehr,” said Nicolas Chamussy, head of UAVs, Cassidian Air Systems, and member of the board of directors, EuroHawk GmbH.

The EURO HAWK marks several important milestones – it is both the first international version of the RQ-4 and the first HALE SIGINT UAS in Europe. NATO’s AGS will follow close behind and mark the second international RQ-4 and the second HALE UAS in Europe.

The EURO HAWK(R) unmanned aircraft system (UAS), a trans-Atlantic partnership between Northrop Grumman and EADS Deutschland GmbH (Cassidian), successfully lands on centerline July 21 at its new home in Manching, Germany.

With a wingspan larger than most commercial airliners, endurance of 30 hours and a maximum altitude of more than 60,000 feet, EURO HAWK is an interoperable, modular and cost-effective replacement to the fleet of manned Breguet Atlantic aircraft which was in service since 1972 and retired in 2010.

Source: Northrop Grumman

U.S. hiked the price of Global Hawks

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Following the South Korean government’s announcement of plans to hasten the introduction of the Global Hawk unmanned high-altitude surveillance aircraft, the United States has reportedly raised its quote for the aircraft more than twofold.

Military web journal Defense 21 reported Friday that the United States recently quoted a purchase price of $450 million for four Global Hawks and demanded an additional $350 million in development costs.

Taking into account demands for the settlement of additional expenses at the time of delivery reflecting the rate of increase in consumer prices, the report added that the total purchase amount would be over one trillion won, more than twice the initially predicted amount, and that operation expenses are predicted to increase by 25 percent each year.

The Global Hawk is an unmanned high-altitude aircraft capable of observing and photographing terrestrial facilities and movements even in the presence of clouds using state-of-the-art radar and optical and infrared sensors from an altitude of 20 kilometers. The top-level strategic spy satellite weapon, which over a 24-hour period is capable of generating thousands of detailed photographs in which a single point represents 30 square centimeters, has an operational radius of some 3,000 kilometers.

The reason cited for the sharp rise in the price of the Global Hawk was a decline in demand stemming from reductions in the U.S. defense budget.

Bloomberg reported that U.S. Secretary of the Air Force Michael Donley stated in a letter submitted to Congress on April 12 that the per-unit price for the Global Hawk would increase by more than 25 percent owing to a 14 percent drop in the number of orders.

Northrop Grumman, the manufacturer of the aircraft, also said that a decision by Air Force authorities to reduce the number of new and improved Block 40 models scheduled for production through 2015 from 22 to 11 also had a major impact. Amid this situation, the effects of U.S. defense budget cuts spilled over onto the South Korean government’s plan to introduce the RQ-4 Global Hawk.

Source: The Hankyoreh

MADL not ready to be integrated into F-22

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In the middle of all issues facing the F-22s today, Air Force leaders tell lawmakers that the F-22 Raptor will not be receiving the same data link being developed for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.

The service had been looking at integrating the Multifunction Advanced Datalink (MADL) onto the F-22, F-35 and B-2 Spirit bombers in an effort to give all stealth jets a secure way of communicating. But according to Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz, the system is not “mature” enough to be installed on the Raptor without incurring too much risk.

“We should let the F-35 development effort mature before tacking it onto the F-22, this was a cost and a risk calculation on our part,” the four-star told the House Appropriations defense subcommittee today.

He went on to say that the jet “can communicate” with older fighters using Link-16 via something called BACN, a version of which can translate info from the Raptor’s Intra-flight Data Link to Link-16 format; allowing it to communicate with older fighters.

BACN has been critical in aiding communications in the skies over Afghanistan where it’s been mounted on everything from a Block 20 RQ-4 Global Hawk to business jets.

The way Schwartz described it, anytime the F-22 would deploy with other fighters, it would need a RQ-4 Global Hawk drone equipped with BACN to be loitering nearby.

While the Air Force insists the jet wasn’t used in Libya because it is based too far from the fight, some speculate that its inability to communicate with other fighters is the real reason it was left out of Operation Odyssey Dawn.

- Source: DOD BUZZ

Northrop submits NATO AGS proposal

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Last week, Northrop Grumman Corporation’s final proposal was submitted for the NATO Alliance Ground Surveillance (AGS) core capability – a trans-Atlantic cooperation that will meet the security challenges of the 21st century.

Pat McMahon, sector vice president of Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems’ Battle Management & Engagement Systems Division, said that ”The updated proposal offers an affordable, executable program that will provide an operationally relevant system to the Alliance.”

Based on the Block 40 configuration of the RQ-4 Global Hawk high-altitude, long-endurance unmanned aircraft, the NATO AGS system will provide persistent intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance to ground, maritime and air commanders, anytime and anywhere in the world.

They will be equipped with Northrop Grumman’s Multi-Platform Radar Technology Insertion Program (MP-RTIP) ground surveillance radar sensor, which will be capable of detecting and tracking moving objects throughout the observed areas as well as providing radar imagery of target locations and stationary objects. It also includes an air segment consisting of six Block 40 Global Hawks that will be missionized to meet NATO requirements.

“As NATO’s highest acquisition priority and Europe’s highest visibility program, NATO AGS also represents the first international sale of the Block 40 Global Hawk,”said Matt Copija, director of Northrop Grumman’s NATO AGS program.

Flying up to 60,000 feet for more than 32 hours, the combat-proven Global Hawk has flown more than 53,000 hours. The U.S. Air Force Block 30 Global Hawks continue to fly relief support missions over Japan in response to the tragic 9.0-magnitude earthquake and resulting tsunami, and are also supporting the NATO-led coalition effort in support of Operation Odyssey Dawn over Libya.

Source: aviation news.eu, photo from Google images

South Korea officially accelerates Global Hawk, F-X III purchase

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South Korea unveiled a series of military reforms on Tuesday, including fast-tracking the purchase of fighter jets and spy planes, in response to two deadly attacks on the peninsula last year.

President Lee Myung-bak said reforming the military was not a matter of choice but a must after last year’s incidents, according to a presidential spokesman.

Defence Minister Kim Kwan-jin said Seoul would purchase high-altitude spy drones and stealth fighter jets and deploy them earlier than planned to strengthen deterrence against the North. Local media said they were initially scheduled for deployment in 2015.

“The aim is to proactively deter current threats posed by the enemy rather than cope with potential threats in the future,” Kim told a news conference in Seoul.

The military will also purchase advanced artillery-detecting radar systems and precision-guided weapons such as the Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM) to neutralise the North’s artillery pieces hidden in mountain caves, the ministry said.

Last year Seoul asked Washington to sell it U.S.-made RQ-4 Global Hawk spy planes and it expects to receive final approval for the planned purchase from the U.S. Defense Department in June, a military source told Yonhap news agency.

The South’s military had originally planned to introduce the unmanned spy drones by 2015 but decided to speed up the deployment of the world’s most advanced reconnaissance planes to strengthen its intelligence abilities, according to the source.

At the same time, South Korea will buy 60 stealth fighter jets earlier than scheduled, a senior official at the defence ministry was quoted by Yonhap as saying.

Lockheed Martin’s F-35 Lightening II Joint Strike Fighter, Boeing’s newly designed F-15 Silent Eagle and the Eurofighter Typhoon made by the European consortium are expected to compete for the order estimated at 10 trillion won.

South Korea has purchased 60 of Boeing’s F-15 fighter jets under the first two stages of the fighter modernisation programme, code-named “F-X,” since 2002.

- Reuters

Airmen provide intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance

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Leaders at every level need battlefield information, and because of Airmen with the 99th Expeditionary Reconnaissance Squadron … now they know.

With their RQ-4 Global Hawk and U-2 aircraft, the Airmen excel at providing intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance for everyone from combatant commanders to troops on the ground.

Both the U-2 and Global Hawk, deployed from Beale Air Force Base, Calif., have a plethora of sensors, but each aircraft is used in different ways. The U-2 flies above 70,000 feet so it’s able to record both signals and still imagery intelligence over a larger area. But because the Global Hawk doesn’t have an onboard pilot, it can stay overhead longer than the typical ten hour U-2 sorties.

Global Hawks and U-2s complement each other,” Colonel Stallings explained. “For example, if a U-2 pilot finds four different hot spots that need monitoring, they can reach out to other assets, like Global Hawks, to provide ISR needs. A U-2 is more capable, but a Global Hawk can remain on station after a U-2 has to turn back.”

The Global Hawk pilots in theater are responsible for the takeoff and landing; operators back at Beale actually give it commands during most of its mission. Keeping the bulk of Global Hawk operations stateside means a smaller footprint at their deployed location, Maj. Scott Zeller said.

“Having some RQ-4 pilots in theater is a safety net to make sure launches and recoveries go smoothly,” said Major Zeller, a Denver native. “Once the aircraft is in the air, we hand-off operations to the pilots back at Beale and they can fly it for the next 20 hours from there.”

Unmanned aerial systems provide “an amazing capability” for coalition forces, Major Zeller said. Those capabilities will only get better in the future. The squadron is currently preparing for the newest version of the aircraft, which boasts a larger wingspan and upgraded sensors.

“The Global Hawk is the future of the high-altitude ISR mission,” said New Jersey native Maj. Andrew McVicker, the 99th ERS director of operations. “But in the interim, nothing compares to what the U-2 can do. The most impressive thing about our community is that we’ve been flying the U-2 for more than 50 years and it’s just as important today as ever — it’s the stalwart of the battlefield.

“Either way, ISR keeps commanders in the know,” Major McVicker said, “and knowing is half the battle.”