Northrop Grumman has demonstrated interoperability between the US Air Force's (USAF) Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System (Joint STARS) and the RQ-4B Global Hawk Block 40 unmanned aircraft system (UAS), during a flight test at an undisclosed location.
Involving the successful exchange of radar data, the test flight represents the first collaborative initiative to transmit ground moving target radar data from the Global Hawk UAS to an E-8C Joint STARS aircraft, to help enhance and expand surveillance capabilities of the ground forces.
Northrop Grumman Joint STARS programme director Bryan Lima said the Global Hawk was used as an adjunct sensor by the Joint STARS operators during testing, whose findings have shown greater precision, improved target tracking and the ability to expand the surveillance coverage area.
"By combining the capabilities of these platforms, we've unlocked increased battle management potential, not only by expanding coverage of the surveillance area, but also for compressing the targeting and attack decision chain for warfighters," Lima added.
The E-8C Joint STARS is a long-range, airborne battle management and command and control (C2) platform, and conducts ground surveillance to help commanders develop an understanding of the enemy situation, while simultaneously transmitting target locations to aircraft and ground strike forces.
A derivative of Boeing's 707-300 series commercial airliner, the Joint STARS uses an AN/APY-7 multimode side looking radar for detection, tracking and classification of moving ground vehicles in all weather conditions from standoff distances.
Powered by an Allison Rolls-Royce AE3007H turbofan engine, the RQ-4 Global Hawk is a high-altitude, long-endurance (HALE) UAS designed to provide field commanders with high-resolution, near real-time imagery of large geographic areas in support of military, humanitarian and environmental missions worldwide.
Image: US Air Force's E-8C Joint STARS aircraft during flight. Photo courtesy of USAF.