Developers at Hanscom AFB, Mass., have turned over the Multi-Platform Radar Technology Insertion Program (MP-RTIP) radar sensor for integration on the Global Hawk Block 40. The milestone was reached June 15 when the sensor reached Edwards AFB, Calif., where it will be placed onto AF18, a Global Hawk Block 40 aircraft.
This milestone was slated for spring 2009, but delayed to allow developers more time to iron out software challenges in developing so-called concurrent radar modes. That delay didn't contribute much more to delays already accruing in testing the different blocks of Global Hawks. Once the poster child for spiral development programs, the plan of delivering incremental capabilities across various blocks has helped to contribute to a bottleneck in testing sorties at Edwards, according to program sources. As one method of relief, commanders at Beale AFB, Calif., where the Global Hawk will call home, are agreeing to conduct acceptance testing there, relieving Edwards of some of its logjam.
The progress with MP-RTIP is expected to be one of a number of issues discussed at an upcoming meeting of the Defense Acquisition Board on Global Hawk later this week. Also on the agenda will be whether to enter Lot 9 production, which is planned to include two Block 30s (with imint and sigint collectors) and the Block 40 with MP-RTIP.
Last week, Air Force senior acquisition executive David Van Buren complained about slow response from Northrop Grumman on the Global Hawk program and with its sensors.
“I’m not happy with the pace of that program, and we are not happy with the cost of the air vehicle and the sensors,” Van Buren says. “I’m not happy with the pace of the program — the overall program, the big program here. Both the government side and the contractor side need to do better in the future.” Van Buren declined to identify the cause of the cost issues pending completion of a“should-cost” review, which will be finished by the end of September.
Company officials say they have improved response time in repairing line replaceable units for the Block 10 aircraft supporting Afghanistan, Iraq and Horn of Africa ops from Al Dhafra Air Base, UAE. The LRU's support the Raytheon Integrated Sensor Suite EO/IR ball, and company officials are examining how much support can be provided in theater for the system.
Company officials also defend their responsiveness to RFPs. At Van Buren's request, the proposal for the next lot of aircraft will be submitted in 60 days. This proposal includes cost negotiations for the first production ASIP sigint collectors and MP-RTIP radars, says the company official.
The Northrop Grumman/Raytheon MP-RTIP sensor, measuring 1.5 ft. by 4 ft., is an active, electronically scanned array radar designed to track and image moving targets. Flight testing of MP-RTIP on the high-flying manned Proteus aircraft concluded June 12, says Col. Jim Shaw, who oversees the sensor's development. Developmental testing on Proteus of the standard SAR (synthetic aperture radar) and GMTI (ground moving target indicator) modes was complete after officials solved radar calibration issues in 2008.
The most recent challenge was developing software to conduct what Shaw says are the first ever "concurrent modes" of collection. This is designed to allow the sensor to capture swath or spot SAR images of a target without breaking GMTI track. Today, JSTARS operators must cease GMTI tracking while collecting an image.
SAR image collected from experimental MP-RTIP sensor on Proteus aircraft. source: USAF
Also included is the ability to collect High-Range Resolution data, highly accurate measurements, of targets. Shaw says this has been demonstrated.
Further testing of this and the other modes remains once the sensor is integrated onto the Block 40.
The Air Force plans to buy 77 Global Hawks, including Block 20,30, and 40s.
The first three Block 40s are in various stages of construction at Northrop Grumman's production facility in Palmdale, Calif., says George Guerra, the company's program manager. He says integration of the sensor onto the aircraft should only take a couple of weeks.