The U-2’s longer sensor range is beneficial “when you [are] near a border” and cannot overfly the target, he added.
To tackle the Air Force’s need for “sensor parity” with the U-2, Northrop has used company funds to develop a universal payload adaptor (UPA) that enables the Block 30’s existing sensors to be replaced with greater range/resolution cameras when the mission requires.
The primary proposal involves using the adaptor to integrate the U-2’s Goodrich-built SYERS-2B EO/IR sensor onto the Block 30 to provide higher resolution and longer slant ranges. Separate proposals cover integration of the Optical Bar Camera (OBC) and in-development SYERS-3 sensor.
The Air Force estimates the cost of upgrading the Global Hawk’s existing Raytheon EO/IR sensor to meet the requirement as $855 million for development and retrofit of the 18 Block 30s that have been built, with production beginning in fiscal 2020.
The report to Congress puts the cost of integrating the SYERS-2B and OBC on the 18 Global Hawks as $487 million. Vice says Northrop’s fixed-price offer for integrating SYERS-2 “is 6% of the Air Force’s estimate cost of upgrading the Block 30 cameras to the range and resolution required, at no risk to the government.”
The proposal submitted is to integrate GFE SYERS-2 sensors onto six Block 30s “for less than $50 million,” Vice says, adding the universal adaptor is ready and can be available quickly. The offer does require the SYERS-2 sensors to be taken off the U-2s, he acknowledges.
“The company’s proposal is to replace the sensors on six aircraft — we are looking at 18,” Welsh told lawmakers, adding “It takes the sensors off the U-2s, which means we can’t use them anymore.”
Other fixed-price proposals covering integration of the wet-film OBC, digital SYERS-3 and other hyperspectral sensors are aimed at “providing the maximum sensor capability,” Vice says.