UAV demonstrator preparing Navy for future leap in technology, capability
By OTTO KREISHER, Special Correspondent
the Pacific and off Central America.
And one is flying operational
reconnaissance missions over the
Persian Gulf for the Fifth Fleet
The high-flying Northrop
Grumman drones also have aided
U.S. civil authorities by using
cloud-penetrating radar to give
emergency response officials an
early assessment of Hurricane Ike’s
effects on the Gulf Coast, and optical sensors to show the scope of
raging wild fires in California.
The two aircraft had accumulated more than 663 flying hours in
67 missions as of early February, Dishman said during
the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems’ International Forum Feb. 2 in Washington.
That flight-hours-to-mission ratio is not a good
indication of the true capability of the Global Hawk,
which can stay airborne for up to 36 hours, he said.
Dishman told Seapower that when Navy officials
asked the demonstrator program to support the
Panamax ’08 exercise off Panama in August, they considered deploying one of the aircraft to that area. But
they later realized they could fly the UAV from its base
at Naval Air Station (NAS) Patuxent River, Md., and
still provide 10 hours of coverage on station in Central
America before returning home.
One of the Navy Global Hawks showed a similar
capability when it supported Rim of Pacific exercises
around Hawaii in June 2006, flying from Edwards Air
Force Base, Calif., 2,500 miles away.
That is the kind of capability BAMS is expected to
provide, and for which the GHMD program is preparing the Navy.
The Global Hawk, designated the RQ-4A, started out
as an advanced technology demonstrator for the Air
Force in the 1990s. But while it still was in the develop-
The two jet-powered RQ-4A unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) the
Navy is using for its Global Hawk Maritime Demonstrator program
differ slightly from the Global Hawks used by the Air Force.
■ The synthetic aperture radar has been modified to improve its
■ Receivers were added for the Automatic Identification System
required for commercial shipping.
■ The Navy also bought two launch-and-recovery elements for
The U.S. Navy’s Broad Area Maritime Surveillance (BAMS) system is not expected to achieve
initial operating capability for at least seven
years, but the fleet already is getting exposed to the
advantages that a long-endurance unmanned aircraft
with sophisticated over-water sensors can provide.
That experience is being provided by the Global Hawk
Maritime Demonstrator (GHMD) program, an unusual
effort to help prepare for a future leap in technology.
“The main objective is to expose the fleet operators to
persistent maritime surveillance capability,” said Capt.
Robert Dishman, the program manager for Persistent
Maritime Unmanned Air Systems, which includes
BAMS and the GHMD initiative.
The Global Hawk demonstration also can help in
developing tactics, techniques and procedures for the
future BAMS system, Dishman said. But he cautioned
the operators not to get too detailed in that effort
because the BAMS sensor package, developed specifically for the maritime mission, will be very different
from the modified Air Force systems on the Navy’s two
Global Hawk unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs).
In the three years since their delivery, the maritime
demonstrator UAVs have supported Navy exercises in