Latest updates[?]: The Gray Eagle Extended Range (GE-ER) Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) completed initial flight tests equipped with a new brushless generator system, providing over 50% more power than the current system. The tests were held on May 13, 2021, at Yuma Proving Grounds, Arizona. The initial flight test of the system marks an important milestone towards upgrading the GE-ER fleet with generators that will significantly improve reliability and dramatically reduce platform sustainment costs. The new generator also provides electrical power to support expanding mission scenarios for the UAS, General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc. said.
Its initial battles were fought within the Pentagon, but the US Army’s high-end UAV has made its transition to the battlefield.
The ER/MP program was part of the US Army’s reinvestment of dollars from the canceled RAH-66 Comanche helicopter program, and directly supports the Army’s Aviation Modernization Plan. The US Air Force saw this Predator derivative as a threat and tried to destroy it, but the program survived the first big “Key West” battle of the 21st century. Now, the MQ-1C “Gray Eagle” is in production as the US Army’s high-end UAV. As CENTCOM’s wars end, however, the Gray Eagle may find that staying in the fleet is as hard as getting there.
This FOCUS article offers a program history, key statistics and budget figures, and ongoing coverage of the program’s contracts and milestones.
Latest updates[?]: Northrop Grumman won a $12 million contract modification, which increases the ceiling to extend services and adds hours increasing the full-scale fatigue repair time to achieve the required simulated flight hours in support of E-2D Advanced Hawkeye aircraft development. The Advanced Hawkeye features a state-of-the-art radar with a two-generation leap in capability and upgraded aircraft systems that will improve supportability and increase readiness. Work will take place in California, Florida and New York. Estimated completion is in June 2023.
Northrop Grumman’s E-2C Hawkeye is a carrier-capable “mini-AWACS” aircraft, designed to give long-range warning of incoming aerial threats. Secondary roles include strike command and control, land and maritime surveillance, search and rescue, communications relay, and even civil air traffic control during emergencies. E-2C Hawkeyes began replacing previous Hawkeye versions in 1973. They fly from USN and French carriers, from land bases in the militaries of Egypt, Japan, Mexico, and Taiwan; and in a drug interdiction role for the US Naval Reserve. Over 200 Hawkeyes have been produced.
The $17.5 billion E-2D Advanced Hawkeye program aims to build 75 new aircraft with significant radar, engine, and electronics upgrades in order to deal with a world of stealthier cruise missiles, saturation attacks, and a growing need for ground surveillance as well as aerial scans. It looks a lot like the last generation E-2C Hawkeye 2000 upgrade on the outside – but inside, and even outside to some extent, it’s a whole new aircraft.
Latest updates[?]: Boeing won an $11.6 million contract modification, which adds scope for engineering services in support of Next Generation Jammer software development. Next Generation Jammer, an external jamming pod, will address advanced and emerging threats alike, as well as the growing numbers of threats. NGJ uses the latest digital, software-based and Active Electronically Scanned Array technologies and will provide enhanced airborne electronic attack capabilities to disrupt and degrade enemy air defense and ground communication systems. Work will take place in St. Louis, Missouri. Expected completion will be in December 2021.
The US Navy owns the only operational tactical jamming fighters in the world, but the AN/ALQ-99 pods they depend on use analog technologies, are hard to maintain, and have reliability issues. All-digital technologies and modern transmit/receive electronics offer huge leaps ahead in capability and availability, which is why the US military is working on a Next-Generation Jammer (NGJ) replacement for the pods on its tactical strike aircraft.
The EA-18G Growler will be the NGJ’s first platform, but the flexibility of modern technologies mean that it may not be the last.
Latest updates[?]: Raytheon won a $442.3 million deal for the force element terminal (FET) development effort. The contract provides for the design, development, testing, integration, and logistical support of a FET system that will transition the B-52 and RC-135 hardened communication terminals from the Military Strategic Tactical Relay satellite communications satellite constellation to the Advanced Extremely High Frequency satellite constellation. According to the US Air Force’s latest strategic bomber guidance document, the B-52H Stratofortress are no longer approved to carry nuclear gravity bombs. There have long been concerns that the B-52 lacks the capability to penetrate modern air defenses to deliver a nuclear strike with gravity bombs. The B-52 Stratofortress entered into service in the 1950s. With the Cold War in full swing, the bomber became an integral part of the US’ nuclear deterrent as a part of the Nuclear Triad, alongside intercontinental ballistic missiles and nuclear-armed submarines. Decades later the aircraft is still integral in this role. Boeing RC-135 is a four engine, medium weight reconnaissance aircraft designed and manufactured by Boeing Defence and Integrated Systems for the USAF. Work will take place at Raytheon's facilities in Marlborough, Massachusetts; and Largo, Florida, and is expected to be completed by August 2023.
Nimrod R1 & E-3D AWACS
Land and sea surveillance, and electronic surveillance, are missions no government can ignore. To keep its capabilities, Great Britain launched a parallel set of efforts to update its Nimrod fleet. One multi-billion pound program sought to upgrade 12 of its unique Nimrod Mk2 maritime patrol aircraft to Nimrod MRA4 status. The other effort, named Project HELIX, sought to keep its related Nimrod R1 electronic and signals intelligence/ relay aircraft fleet flying until 2025.
Both failed. The Nimrod MR2 fleet was retired in 2010, with several almost-complete MRA4s scrapped, leaving Britain with no long-range maritime surveillance aircraft. The first sign of trouble for the Nimrod R1s was an October 2008 DSCA request, conveying Britain’s official $1+ billion request to field 3 RC-135V/W Rivet Joint ELINT/SIGINT aircraft. That, too, became final, and the R1s will now leave service in 2011 – to be replaced by a joint RAF/USAF “Airseeker” program centered on the RC-135W Rivet Joint.
Latest updates[?]: The American State Department approved a possible Sale to the Republic of Korea for Contractor Logistics Support (CLS) for RQ-4 Global Hawk Block 30 Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPS). The deal is worth $950 million. The contract would enable the Republic of Korea to sustain and operate its fleet of RQ-4 Block 30 remotely piloted aircraft and will significantly advance US interests in standardization with the Republic of Korea’s Armed Forces. In 2014 South Korea signed a deal to purchase Global Hawks with production starting in 2015 and delivery expected to start last year. Due to cyber security concerns, delivery was delayed. Northrop Grumman is the principal contractor on the contract.
Euro Hawk UAV
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Since the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the RQ-4 Global Hawk high-altitude, long-endurance (HALE) UAV has gone from a developmental platform to the next generation of American aerial reconnaissance. Flying at 60,000 feet, the RQ-4’s use their advanced synthetic aperture radar and other sensors to provide high-resolution images, unaffected by clouds or similar impediments. A larger RQ-4B model has been developed, and forms the backbone of current deliveries.
The transatlantic Euro Hawk project aimed to produce an RQ-4B with additional capabilities in signals intelligence collection (SIGINT), to complement its native ground surveillance capabilities. The 4-5 UAVs would provide the ability to detect and collect information from electronic intelligence (ELINT) radar emitters and communications emitters, and would be connected to ground stations that can receive and analyze the data. An MoU was signed in May 2006, followed by a firm system development contract on Jan 31/07. The Euro Hawk flew, and was performing on a technical level, but regulatory barriers killed the program in May 2013.
Latest updates[?]: Sierra Nevada will upgrade two aircraft as part of the Saudi King Air 350 program. The company will add an intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance/synthetic aperture radar capability to the two King Air 350 extended range aircraft. The twin-propeller King Air 350 is an affordable, long-endurance option for effective manned battlefield surveillance and attack. US aircraft in their ISR configuration are equipped with signals intelligence (SIGINT) electronic interception capabilities, and carry L-3 Westar’s MX-15i surveillance turrets. One transportable ground station; one fixed ground station; and one mission system trainer are also included in the contract. The definitization modification is priced at $23.8 million and involves 100% foreign military sales to Saudi Arabia. Work will be performed at Sierra Nevada's facility in Hagerstown, Maryland and is expected to be completed by May 2020.
In recent wars, a lot of high tech gear has been upstaged by a surprising contender. Countries like the USA, Canada, Britain, Egypt, Iraq, and others are flying low-end turboprop business aircraft fitted with an array of sensors and a small crew. They’re cheap to buy, don’t use technology that makes export approval difficult, and are easy to maintain. Operating them is well within the capabilities of any country with an air force. Their sensors also offer more diversity and power than all but the highest-cost UAVs, in exchange for having just 1/2 to 1/3 of a high-end UAV’s mission endurance. No wonder many countries see them as a good complement to, or substitute for, existing UAV offerings.
Saudi Arabia has the money and clout to buy the expensive stuff. Nevertheless…
Latest updates[?]: The US Army has awarded Northrop Grumman a $750 million contract for life cycle services on the service's Special Electronic Mission Aircraft fleet. 75 fixed-wing airborne intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance planes will be covered under the agreement, including RC-12X Guardrail, the Enhanced Medium Altitude Reconnaissance Surveillance System and Airborne Reconnaissance Low variants. The period of performance is one year, with eight one-year options, and work to be carried out includes program management, systems engineering and modification, supply chain management, and aircraft modifications and elective upgrades. King Aerospace, Inc. and M1 Support Service will also participate in work under the contract.
They’re derived from Hawker-Beechcraft’s popular King Air B200 twin-prop planes, and they look like a dog that just finished chasing a family of porcupines. Their specialty is intercepting enemy communications, and snooping on electronic emissions. At one time, these light “RC-12 Guardrail” aircraft were one of the 3 electronic eavesdropping and surveillance planes slated for replacement by the joint Army-Navy Aerial Common Sensor (ACS) jet, after many years of service in remote trouble spots and large-scale wars around the globe. Now, they’re getting a new lease on life.
The $8 billion ACS program’s suspension, “back to square one” delay, and joint status uncertainties, have turned the Guardrails into a critical asset that need to continue serving. That requires performance improvements and modernization of their electronics to match a quickly-evolving field. To that end, long-standing Guardrail fleet prime contractor Northrop Grumman Corporation has been asked to create the latest entry in the Guardrail family.
Out in the field, one of the most important questions is also one of the simplest: where am I? Map-reading and orienteering remain critical soldiering skills, but the explosive growth of the GPS receiver market offers modern-day soldiers – and their opponents – new options. GPS has a military channel as well, of course, offering greater precision. These military-grade GPS receivers are becoming common among American units and their allies, often operating alongside civilian units from firms like Garmin that can include in-country roadmaps for front-line zones. Then again, you probably wouldn’t want to offer nearby airstrike coordinates based on a civilian unit if there was any choice in the matter.
Defense Advanced GPS Receivers (DAGRs) will serve as a smaller, lighter, replacement for the Precision Lightweight GPS Receiver (PLGR). Their electronics can be integrated into tanks, UAV drones, etc., or serve as standalone handheld systems for both advanced and basic military GPS users. Authorized Department of Defense (DoD) and foreign military sales (FMS) customers receive a hand-held Precise Positioning System (PPS) with a dual-frequency (L1/L2) receiver that weighs less than a pound, and incorporates the next generation, tamper-resistant GPS “SAASM” (Selective Availability Anti-Spoofing Module) anti-jamming and security module.
Federal Business Opportunities (FBO) has recently disclosed the following Requests for Proposals (RFP), modifications and notifications:
The US Air Force releases a Statement of Work, Questions and Answers and additional documents in relation to the purchase and installation of a Lawful Intercept (LI) capability for the Government of Iraq (GOI). LI will provide the GOI with enhanced communications intelligence to support a range of security operations.