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Aurora Flight Sciences has delivered the first set of vertical tails for the new RQ-4B model of the Global Hawk unmanned aerial vehicle to prime contractor Northrop Grumman.
Aurora designed and fabricated tooling for the new aircraft’s aft fuselage, fairings, vertical tails and engine nacelle components. The vertical tails complete the delivery of the first ship set of RQ-4B flight hardware built by Aurora. The delivery is a major milestone towards delivering the first RQ-4B, which is expected to make its first flight in 2006.
“The vertical tails and other components in the first RQ-4B ship set were among the first components fabricated in Aurora’s brand new, state-of-the-art composites facility,” said Aurora Flight Sciences President John Langford.
“The facility was designed in conjunction with MIT’s Lean Aerospace Initiative as a showcase for lean aerospace manufacturing processes. The facility helps us streamline our fabrication processes, optimize process efficiencies and deliver RQ-4B components with the goal of being on-time and on-cost.”
When Aurora received its first subcontract in 1995 to build vertical tails for the original Advanced Concept Technology Demonstration (ACTD) air vehicle, it was merely a conceptual sketch on a drafting board. Over the last 10 years, Aurora Flight Sciences has been a key member of the Global Hawk team, and has helped turn that original conceptual sketch into one of the United States’ most powerful Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) assets.
Over the years, Aurora has increased the scope of its Global Hawk work from fabrication of vertical tails for the first two Global Hawk airframes to a portfolio that includes fabrication of the vertical tails, nacelle and aft fuselage assemblies as well as several metal bond doors and fairing assemblies. Today, Aurora Flight Sciences manufactures almost one-third of each Global Hawk fuselage assembly.
“Aurora has played a pivotal role on the Global Hawk team since the program’s inception,” said George Guerra, Director for Northrop Grumman’s Global Hawk program.“ Aurora’s commitment and dedication to the program have brought us closer to delivering the first RQ-4B and expanding the capabilities and options available to today’s warfighters and commanders.”
The new RQ-4B Global Hawk is larger than the currently deployed Advanced Concept Technology Demonstrator Global Hawk system and the RQ-4A version. It carries 50 percent more payload and provides two and a half times the available onboard power for carrying multiple sensor systems.
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