Northrop Grumman Corporation moved significantly closer to completing the first of its next-generation, enhanced-capability RQ-4B Global Hawk unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) due to deliveries of two critical airframe components within the last month.
Vought Aircraft delivered the RQ-4B’s new graphite-composite wing assembly in July. Measuring 131 feet, the wing assembly successfully completed a rigorous static test to 100 percent of its limit load, validating its structural integrity. Northrop Grumman completed integration of the wings with the fuselage in July.
“”This is a significant step forward in the manufacturing of the Global Hawk RQ-4B,”” commented George Guerra, director for Northrop Grumman’s Global Hawk program. “”With the wing mate, we can see the airplane taking shape.””
In late July, Aurora Flight Sciences delivered the first set of the RQ-4B’s vertical tails. With these two critical components, flight testing of the first RQ-4B is scheduled to commence in the second half of 2006.
Northrop Grumman is currently producing four of the new RQ-4B Global Hawks at its Palmdale, Calif. production facility.
With 3,000 pounds of payload capacity, the RQ-4B Global Hawk offers 50 percent more payload capacity than its currently deployed “”sibling,”” the RQ-4A. This added capability will allow it to carry more intelligence sensors, enhancing its ability to simultaneously collect imagery, signals intelligence and infrared and radar information, and transfer it to the warfighter in near-real time.
To accommodate the increased payload capacity, Northrop Grumman has redesigned and strengthened Global Hawk’s fuselage. The RQ-4B’s fuselage is four feet longer and just slightly taller than the RQ-4A’s. The wingspan has also increased by approximately fifteen feet, allowing the RQ-4B to carry more fuel. The RQ-4B also features a gross take-off weight 5500 pounds heavier than that of the RQ-4A.
Global Hawk flies autonomously at an altitude of at least 60,000 feet, well above inclement weather and prevailing winds for more than 32 hours at an average of 320 knots. During a single mission, it can travel more than 10,000 nautical miles from its take-off location, and it provides detailed image-based intelligence on 40,000 square miles.
The image shows the enhanced graphite-composite wing attached to the fuselage of Northrop Grumman’s Global Hawk RQ-4B unmanned aerial vehicle.
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