Home' Asia Pacific Defence Reporter : APDR October 2010 Contents 20 | Asia Pacific Defence Reporter
The US Navy intends to acquire a total of 68 MQ-4Cs up to 2019, to be
operated from five bases throughout the world. The fuselage of the first
air vehicle is currently under construction and flight test of the Systems
Design and Development (SDD) aircraft is scheduled to begin in FY2012.
IOC (with four air vehicles) is now set at 2016.
Air Force versions of Global Hawk have been in service for some time
of course and have been racking up some impressive statistics. Northrop
Grumman briefed journalist at this years’ Singapore Airshow on some
of its achievements, claiming a monthly flight hour average in combat
higher than airline flying typical for Southwest Airlines’ 737s. During
Operation Iraqi Freedom the company says that earlier, less sophisticated,
versions of Global Hawks flew only five per cent of the high altitude ISR
missions, but captured over 55% of the time-sensitive target imagery used
to generate strike sorties.
AIR 7000 FUTURE CAPABILITY
What does the Commonwealth get for the money and time invested so far
in AIR 7000? As far as Phase 2B is concerned, there is an opportunity to
influence the outcome of the first development to the baseline P-8A design
through the MoU. Known as Increment Two (and before that Spiral One) it
is designed to close the gap between the P-8A as initially delivered and the
capabilities of current day P-3C and AP-3C platforms.
As noted, this capability is intended to be delivered from 2013 and
should be bedded down by the time Australia is ready to take its first
aircraft around 2015. A further development (Increment Three/Spiral One)
is in the planning stages and is due to reach the fleet in 2018. As a signatory
to the MoU, the Commonwealth also has an opportunity to influence this
design to some degree. Australian involvement however does not translate
into slots on the production line and Boeing says that this will not occur
until a formal contract is in place.
Advantages over the current AP-3C are the higher dash and transit
speeds (increased by 20% and 31% respectively, according to Boeing
brochure figures), higher cruise altitude and reduced cabin noise (and
therefore lower fatigue levels) brought about by a turbofan-powered
aircraft. Importantly it will not be a unique system and spares and support
will be leveraged off the US Navy’s global fleet distribution. As a node in the
US Navy’s FORCENet networked vision for the future, it will also provide a
similar capability for the ADF.
A development pencilled in for Increment Two is a stand-off torpedo
capability in the form of the US Navy’s High Altitude Anti Submarine
Weapons Concept (HAAWC), for which Lockheed Martin and Raytheon
are respectively developing their LongShot and Fish Hawk concepts.
HAAWC is a wing kit that is designed to strap on to the Mk.54 torpedo and
allow it to be launched from well outside a submarine or surface vessel’s
Increment Three aircraft may have a MAD capability restored, in the
form of the InSitu MagEagle UAV, a version of the successful ScanEagle,
currently operated by Australian and coalition troops in Afghanistan but
fitted with a MAD system. Current thinking is to carry the MagEagle in
either the bomb bay or on the underwing pylons in a compressed carriage
container, known as the MagEagle Compressed Carriage (MECC), and air
launched. In wartime these could be considered expendable, but would
be recovered aboard ship or on land using the unique SkyHook recovery
system during peacetime operations.
During Operation Iraqi Freedom the company
says that earlier, less sophisticated, versions of
Global Hawks flew only five per cent of the high
altitude ISR missions, but captured over 55% of
the time-sensitive target imagery used to generate
Global Hawk under test. Credit: USAF / Mike Young
The aircraft carrier USS Kitty Hawk (CV 63)
and USNS Guadalupe (T-AO 200) in this Global
Hawk RQ-4A aerial photograph. Credit: USN
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