Northrop Grumman has conducted the RQ-4 Global Hawk unmanned aircraft system’s (UAS) first flight using the new modernised ground station.

The flight was carried out at Edwards Air Force Base in California, US.

The new capability is being delivered under the Global Hawk ground station modernisation programme (GSMP).

Global Hawk provides persistent intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) information, gather near-real-time, high-resolution imagery of large land areas and offers air and ground users with communications relay support.

It belongs to the US Air Force’s (USAF) fleet of advanced high-altitude, long-endurance (HALE) autonomous systems.

Northrop Grumman Global Hawk vice-president Leslie Smith said: “Global Hawk is a critical asset that delivers vital data to US forces and allies 24/7/365.

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“New, modern ground stations for Global Hawk will significantly improve the system and allow operators to more efficiently deliver timely ISR data to warfighters and connect the joint force through its global communications node mission.”

The new ground station acts as the main interface between pilots, sensor operators and the UAS.

It features an open architecture design, new cockpit displays, simpler maintenance interfaces, and will offer enhanced situational awareness to operators.

Air Force Life Cycle Management Center Global Hawk System Programme director colonel William Collins said: “Not only will it allow the operators to conduct their missions from an enhanced, building-based control element, it will deliver critical Diminished Manufacturing Sources solutions and system security enhancements that will ensure this vital capability continues to be secure from cyber threats.”

In October, Northrop Grumman commenced the construction process for Australia’s first MQ-4C Triton, an unmanned maritime intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) aircraft.