Europe isn't quite as firmly on the bleeding edge of UAVs as the US. Northrop Grumman and EADS-run Cassidian just brought the continent one step closer through the first full test flight of Euro Hawk. A new take on the Global Hawk HALE with a new mission system from Cassidian, it should be the continent's first military UAV that mates both long flight durations with high altitude: the two partners expect Euro Hawk to collect strategic intelligence from up to 60,000 feet and for as long as 30 hours before it needs to touch down. There's more testing to go before active service begins -- the initial flight only lasted eight hours, for example -- but the unmanned flyer should eventually keep watch over German troops and territories well past the limits of human endurance.
Northrop Grumman, Cassidian Fly First Sensor-Equipped EURO HAWK® Unmanned Aircraft
MANCHING, Germany, Jan. 11, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- Northrop Grumman Corporation (NYSE: NOC) and EADS Deutschland GmbH, operating through Cassidian, together achieved a major milestone today with the first full system test flight of the EURO HAWK® unmanned aircraft system (UAS) equipped with the signals intelligence (SIGINT) advanced sensors for detection of radar and communication emitters. Cassidian is the defence and security division of EADS (EDF, EPA, MSX: EAD).
The EURO HAWK® took off at 10:36 a.m. Central European time from Manching Air Base and climbed to a ceiling of 54,000 feet within military controlled airspace, far above and at a safe distance from civilian air traffic. After more than eight hours aloft, the aircraft landed safely back at Manching Air Base at 4:38 p.m. Central European time.
"This successful flight demonstrates the EURO HAWK® program's systems integration capabilities and cutting-edge technologies. The Cassidian-developed SIGINT sensor suite, conforming to the German Bundeswehr's requirements, showed excellent performance within the perfect interplay of the overall system," said Bernhard Gerwert, chief executive officer of Cassidian. "We therefore are proud to prove with these test flights the new EURO HAWK's mission capability of strategic SIGINT intelligence for the protection and security of the German armed forces."
The EURO HAWK® system previously completed extensive ground testing at Manching Air Base, receiving final approval from the German Airworthiness Authority to flight test the functionalities of the integrated SIGINT payload.
"Today's SIGINT sensor flight marks the start of the critical flight test phase of the EURO HAWK® payload for the German Bundeswehr," said Tom Vice, corporate vice president and president of Northrop Grumman's Aerospace Systems sector. "EURO HAWK® represents many significant firsts for Northrop Grumman. Not only is it our first trans-Atlantic cooperation with Germany and Cassidian, but it is also the first international version of the RQ-4 Global Hawk produced by the company and the first high-altitude, long-endurance [HALE] SIGINT UAS in Europe."
Based on the RQ-4B Global Hawk HALE UAS, the EURO HAWK® system includes a ground station consisting of a mission control and launch and recovery elements provided by Northrop Grumman. It is equipped with a new SIGINT mission system developed by Cassidian, providing standoff capability to detect electronic and communications emitters. The SIGINT ground station, which receives and analyzes the data from EURO HAWK® as part of an integrated system solution, is also supplied by Cassidian.
"The EURO HAWK® success story continues to unfold and will enable Germany to independently conduct round-the-clock surveillance and reconnaissance," said Neset Tukenmez, chief executive officer for the EuroHawk GmbH. "With this first sensor flight, the EURO HAWK® effectively demonstrated its system capability for safe operation within German air space."
With a wingspan larger than most commercial airliners, endurance of more than 30 hours and a maximum altitude of approximately 60,000 feet, EURO HAWK® is an interoperable, modular and cost-effective replacement for the fleet of manned Breguet Atlantic aircraft, which was in service since 1972 and retired in 2010.