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Three of the test aircraft are now with the US Navy’s Air Test & Evaluation
Squadron ( VX-20) at Patuxent River in Maryland. The second of these has
a mission suite installed and has recently begun testing alongside a P-3
to ‘baseline’ the system. “Feedback from our flight test crews was very
positive from the first several mission system test events out in Seattle,”
according to Programme Manager Captain Mike Moran “It is unique to
see the systems performing so well this early in the flight test phase of a
program this size, but the investment in our high fidelity weapons system
integration lab with flight qualified hardware and software is clearly
showing its value. Although we are still early in the flight test program and
the majority of flight test events remain ahead of us, this is a very positive
first step for the program.”
The initial contract included options to build two extra flight test
aircraft and this has been exercised, with the second aircraft currently on
the production line. A sixth aircraft has subsequently been added to the
programme and two of the test aircraft are static and fatigue test structures
and will not fly.
Boeing recently achieved ‘Milestone C’, clearing the way for Low Rate
Initial Production in the coming months. The LRIP 1 contract will likely be
for six aircraft. Initial deliveries to the US Navy will begin in 2012, ahead of
Initial Operating Capability the following year, more than 50 years after the
P-3 Orion first entered service.
Boeing sees significant export potential for Poseidon with many operators
of legacy platforms, such as the P-3 and Dassault Atlantique looking to
replace their fleets. It predicts Australia will begin taking Increment Two
aircraft around 2015. Canada is also seen as a near-time customer, with
a competition to be held over the next year or so for delivery around the
same time as Australia
NORTHROP GRUMMAN MQ-4C GLOBAL HAWK
Formerly known as the RQ-4N, Northrop Grumman’s ‘BAMS’ Global Hawk
is a development of the USAF RQ-4B version. The designation has been
changed to reflect the multi-mission capability of the naval variant.
“The Navy is leveraging the Air Force investment in the Global Hawk baseline
and adding enhancements to the system to meet the Navy’s persistent
maritime intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance requirement,”
said the US Navy’s BAMS Programme Manager, Captain Bob Dishman.
“The system will deliver to the warfighter an unprecedented capability to
maintain persistent ISR virtually anywhere in the world 24/7.
The US Navy describes the MQ-4C thusly: “(It is) a multi-mission
maritime intelligence surveillance and reconnaissance system, which will
support a variety of missions while operating independently or in direct
collaboration with fleet assets. The system will provide a continuous
on-station presence while conducting open-ocean and littoral surveillance
It has 35 hour endurance, cruising at 65,000 ft. The MQ-4C is larger
than earlier variants of Global Hawk, with more electrical power available
to sensors and datalinks and can uplift a 50% heavier sensor load.
Sensors include a Northrop Grumman 360-degree mechanically steered
AESA radar, Raytheon EO-IR turret and Synthetic Aperture Radar, an L-3
Communications suite and Sierra Nevada Merlin ESM system.
The US Navy initially ordered 108 P-8As, with
a further five used as test aircraft. It has since
increased the number to 117 (and eight test
aircraft) and six similar P-8Is are on order for
India (interestingly retaining the MAD), which
are due for delivery from 2013
USAF Global Hawk Credit: USAF
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