Off the Wire, 8/10First Flight of Modernized Hunter UAV
Source: Northrop Grumman
Northrop Grumman (San Diego, CA) has taken a significant step toward modernizing the US Army's fleet of Hunter unmanned systems by conducting the first engineering flight of an enhanced, multimission variant of the current RQ-5A air vehicle, called the MQ-5B. The 66-minute check-out flight of the upgraded air vehicle – which features extended range, endurance, and weapon capabilities – was conducted July 8 at Libby Air Field at Ft. Huachuca, AZ.
Compared to the fielded RQ-5A unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), which have flown more than 14,000 hours on combat missions in the Balkans and Iraq, the MQ-5B Hunter offers a longer wing span (34 ft. vs. 29 feet), longer maximum endurance (approximately 15 hours vs. the current 12 hours), and higher operating altitude (approximately 18,000 ft. vs. 15,000 ft.). The new air vehicle also features modern, dual-redundant avionics; the LN-251 GPS/inertial-navigation system, which improves the accuracy of target location; and a heavy-fuel engine.
The goal of the first MQ-5B flight was to evaluate the UAV's controllability and handling characteristics. After a dozen high-speed taxi runs, the air vehicle was commanded to lift off, and it did so successfully. At a safe altitude, the company's flight-operations team conducted a series of controllability tests at various airspeeds before safely landing the UAV. The flight validated predictions about the MQ-5B's performance developed from an earlier series of test flights conducted using a RQ-5A Hunter air vehicle retrofitted with some, but not all, of the MQ-5B's new components.
The company plans to use a subsequent set of test flights to test the MQ-5B's improved capabilities, including its avionics redundancy, camera-guided flight, mission-based return home, and its ability to accurately acquire targets.
Northrop Grumman operated the MQ-5B under the control of a prototype "One System" ground control station. The One System shelter is a standard Army ground control station that can be configured to fly a variety of Army UAVs, including the Shadow and Hunter. Northrop Grumman has previously demonstrated the ability of its prototype One System ground control station to operate the RQ-5A Hunter and an extended-range version known as E-Hunter. The company is currently integrating the Fire Scout into a pre-production version of the One System ground control station.
The first fielding of the MQ-5B Hunter using the Army's One System ground control station with an automated take-off and landing capability is planned for early 2006.
The MQ-5B flight is part of an on-going, collaborative effort by Northrop Grumman and the Army to address obsolescence, enhance the operational performance, and reduce the maintenance costs of the Hunter fleet. As the Army's primary UAV integrator, the company currently provides all depot-level maintenance, support, and engineering services for the Hunter system, which the company developed in partnership with Israel Aircraft Industries in the early 1990s.
For more on US Army efforts to improve its Hunter fleet, see US Army Airborne C2 System to Control UAVs.
Australian Tiger Launches Hellfire II
Source: Lockheed Martin
Lockheed Martin (Orlando, FL) and Eurocopter (Marignane, France) have completed a successful live firing of the Hellfire II missile from Australia's Tiger armed reconnaissance helicopter (ARH), verifying the weapon's integration with the aircraft. The Tiger is the first non-US platform to integrate the Hellfire II missile.
The first of six firings paves the way for the ARH to carry the Hellfire II family of missiles.
The Australian Army performed the first successful firing of a Hellfire II missile equipped with an inert warhead from the ARH at the Woomera test range in Australia's southern desert. A team representing the government of Australia, Australian Aerospace, Eurocopter, Lockheed Martin, and the US Army witnessed the milestone event.
The missile was launched in the lock-on-before-launch mode by a Eurocopter test pilot, targeting a simulated armored-personnel-carrier (APC) target 6-km downrange. The target was designated by the launching ARH helicopter. The missile struck dead center, leaving a gaping hole in the target.
An additional round of five firings is planned for later this year to complete ARH certification. Upon successful completion of these tests, the Hellfire system on the ARH will be fully qualified and cleared for use in operational missions.
Previously, Lockheed Martin and Eurocopter successfully completed a series of launcher and platform-integration tests, validating the interface of the precision-strike, semi-active, laser-guided Hellfire II missile and the all-digital M299 "smart" launcher system with the ARH.
The first two Tiger ARHs, equipped with the Lockheed Martin's Hellfire II missile and M299 launcher, were delivered to the Australian Army in 2004. The Australian Tiger ARH is derived from the Franco-German Tiger variant. It is armed with 70mm (2.75-in.) rockets, Hellfire II air-to-ground missiles, and a turreted 30mm gun, as well as an Australia-specific communications and data-transmission system.
The Hellfire II family includes four variations: the high-explosive anti-tank missile (AGM-114K), which defeats armored threats; the blast-fragmentation missile (AGM-114M), which defeats "soft" targets such as buildings, bunkers, light-armored vehicles, and caves; the millimeter-wave-radar Longbow Hellfire (AGM-114L), which provides fire-and-forget and adverse-weather capability; and the "thermobaric" Hellfire (AGM-114N), with a metal-augmented charge (MAC) warhead, which is devastating against enclosed structures but minimizes collateral damage. All Hellfire II variants have been used successfully in Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF), with more than 1,000 missiles fired to date.
For more on the Tiger combat helicopter, see Tiger Hunt.
Air-Defense Trainer for Royal Netherlands Army
AAI Corp. (Hunt Valley, MD) has been awarded a $13.8-million contract by the Royal Netherlands Army (RNLA) to provide an Advanced Moving Target Simulator (AMTS) system for air-defense training for the nation's armed forces, along with related logistics support for a period of 15 years.
The simulator, designated Stinger Trainer by the RNLA, will be installed at the Joint Air Defense School at De Peel AFB.
The AMTS is AAI's third-generation air-defense trainer. The contract requires development, installation, and testing of a fully immersive, computer-generated, simulated environment inside a 64-foot-diameter hemispherical dome trainer, where gunners and crew chiefs can be effectively trained and evaluated on the use of Stinger missiles against aggressor aircraft.
For more on Netherlands air defense modernization, see Dutch Patriots to Gain New Capabilities.
Paveway Testing Underway in UK
Prime contractor Raytheon Systems Ltd. (RSL) (Harlow, UK) has commenced Paveway IV warhead qualification trials for the UK Ministry of Defense's Precision Guided Bomb (PGB) program. These have commenced ahead of schedule after delivery of hardware to QinetiQ at its Pendine and Shoeburyness facilities.
Trials completed to date include safety qualification at Shoeburyness and a performance trial at Pendine, using an inert PGB warhead.
The safety-qualification trials conducted to date included the following:
A 25-m drop trial involving two warheads, strapped to a PGB warhead pallet, being dropped onto a steel plate. The warheads met the requirements by surviving the drop and remaining safe for disposal. A Fast "cook off" trial in which an all-up-round configuration (including a live PGB warhead and fuze) were subjected to, and successfully passed, a liquid-fuel fire test. A slow "cook-off" trial in which a PGB warhead was subjected to a slow heating while in storage configuration. This trial was successful in meeting requirements. The results will be passed to the Defense Ordnance Safety Group (DOSG) and Insensitive Munitions Advisory Panel (IMAP), which are expected to provide a full endorsement of the safety trials.
The performance trial was conducted on the long sled track at QinetiQ Pendine, using an inert PGB warhead against a semi-infinite concrete target. The configuration under test also included a dummy inert fuze and the PGB tail kit. The trial represented a significant test of warhead performance and was a complete success.
A number of additional trials on the PGB warhead-qualification program remain to be conducted, including further safety and performance trials, which will include a further sled test and three arena tests. The arena trials will be conducted to generate data used in aircraft self-damage calculations and to demonstrate compliance with the fragmentation requirements of the PGB warhead.
A series of environmental trials are also being conducted at the US Naval Air Warfare Center at China Lake, CA.
Korea to Develop Anti-Submarine Missile
Source: Korea Overseas Information Service
A state-run defense research institute in the Republic of (South) Korea said on Aug. 4 that it plans to develop a sophisticated, long-range anti-submarine missile on its own by 2007 as part of programs to build a "cooperative, self-reliant" defense capability.
The Agency for Defense Development (ADD) said it has set aside a total of $990 million a year to build the anti-submarine missiles, which are being planned to equip 4,000-ton-class destroyers.
Last May, the Korean Navy launched its fourth 4,000-ton-class destroyer, Wang Geon, which is capable of waging anti-ship and anti-submarine warfare, as well as electronic-surveillance operations and stealth functions. The Wang Geon is the fourth and last 4,000-ton-class destroyer that the Navy has developed under its shipbuilding program, codenamed KDX-II ("KDX" standing for "Korean Destroyer Experimental").
The envisioned satellite-guided missile will be able to hit an enemy submarine located at a range of about 20 km.