Northrop Grumman last month started flight testing the third in a series of sensor payloads intended to enhance the mission capability of the unmanned RQ-4B Block 30 Global Hawk. The manufacturer expects the U.S. Air Force will make a decision on fielding the new MS-177 multi-spectral long-range imaging sensor on Global Hawk by the end of the year.
The first flight of a Global Hawk fitted with the UTC Aerospace Systems’ MS-177 was conducted from Northrop Grumman’s Palmdale, California facility on February 8. Flight testing is expected to continue through the first half of the year, followed by operational testing of the sensor in advance of an Air Force fielding decision, the manufacturer said.
MS-177 testing follows flight demonstrations of two UTC sensors used on the manned U-2S intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) aircraft, but previously unavailable on Global Hawk. In February 2016, Northrop Grumman flew the Senior Year Electro-optical Reconnaissance System-2 (SYERS-2) on the unmanned aircraft and more recently completed flight tests of an optical bar camera broad-area synoptic sensor.