The US Air Force Life Cycle Management Center has developed a new intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) payload adapter (IPA) for the Block 30 RQ-4 Global Hawk unmanned aircraft system (UAS).
The IPA was developed as part of a cooperative research and development agreement.
Developed in partnership with Northrop Grumman and Air Combat Command, the IPA will help the aircraft to adapt and advance its current sensor capabilities.
The IPA will allow Block 30 airframes to gain further capability to support future and current information gathering sensor systems availability.
Using some or all of the 17 physical attachment points on the IPA, crucial data exchanges with the aircraft can be made.
USAF Global Hawk programme director colonel Darien Hammett said: "Opening up the architecture of the air system will provide added sensor technology opportunities through increased competition, which is our goal."
Currently, the USAF's fleet of Global Hawk aircraft are capable of carrying an enhanced integrated sensor suite and airborne signals intelligence payload.
In March this year, Northrop Grumman flight tested Senior Year Electro-Optical Reconnaissance System-2 (SYERS-2) intelligence gathering sensor onboard RQ-4 Global Hawk at its facility in Palmdale, California, US.
The air force plans to fly an optical bar camera sensor, and fully integrate UTC Aerospace Systems MS-177 on the Global Hawk.
The RQ-4 Global Hawk UAS is designed to provide field commanders with high-resolution, near real-time imagery of large geographic areas in support of military, humanitarian and environmental missions.
The USAF has used the remotely piloted UAS during wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya, and in addition to intelligence gathering and reconnaissance efforts after the earthquakes in Haiti and Japan.
Image: The RQ-4 Global Hawk UAS. Photo: courtesy of US Air Force photo by Bobbi Zapka.