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Air Force adding maritime surveillance capability to its Global Hawks

The U.S. Air Force is pursuing a program to add a new air-sea surveillance capability by including new systems on to its Global Hawk remotely piloted aircraft.
By Richard Tomkins   |   April 29, 2014 at 12:59 PM
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HANSCOM AFB, Mass., April 29 (UPI) -- The U.S. Air Force is moving to adopt a new air-sea battle surveillance capability through the use of Global Hawk remotely piloted aircraft, it says.

The RQ-4 Global Hawk, manufactured by Northrop Grumman, is a surveillance aircraft with a cruise speed of 357 miles per hour, a range of 8,700 miles and an endurance of 28 hours.

Earlier this month the Air Force flew a Global Hawk Block 40, for 11-1/2 hours over a sea range in California as part of a program called Maritime Modes, which uses a maritime moving target indicator and a maritime inverse synthetic aperture radar, or MISAR, for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance information on vessels at sea.

During the test, MISAR collected data on more than 100 items of interest, the Air Force said.

"We're very pleased with the initial results of the test flight," said Lt. Col. Michael Harm, the program's materiel leader. "A good majority of the items met with success."

Data collected during the risk-reduction test is now being analyzed to determine initial performance, stability and necessary fixes to the system before it enters development testing.

The system will integrate with other modes in a radar system called the Multi-Platform Radar Technology Insertion Program, or MP-RTIP, which detects moving ground vehicles and can produce synthetic aperture radar imagery. RQ-4B Global Hawks are the only aircraft equipped with the radar system.

"This capability will augment the MP-RTIP's existing ground surveillance and provide the warfighter with a complete ground, coastal and open seas picture," said Frank Hertler, Maritime Modes program manager. "The system will be able to detect, track, classify and build a profile from where the vessel came from as well as have the ability to see much smaller marine vehicles."

The Maritime Modes system is being developed by an Air Force Life Cycle Management Center at Hanscom Air Force Base.

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