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[infowar.de] Global Hawk soll Signals Intelligence machen
December 10, 2001
Raytheon Pitches Eavesdropping Tech For Global Hawk
By Ron Laurenzo
The Global Hawk unmanned aircraft, which debuted in combat in recent
weeks, providing pictures and radar images of Afghanistan, could become
an eavesdropping aircraft within a year.
The Air Force has planned to eventually add a "signals intelligence
package" to the RQ-4A Global Hawk, but Raytheon recently offered to
speed things up. Raytheon has offered the Air Force a scaled-down
version of the "SIGINT" package it makes for the U-2 spy plane for use
on Global Hawk.
Global Hawk, which flies at 65,000 feet, is one of the highest-profile
systems employed in Afghanistan. The possible addition of eavesdropping
equipment to the new aircraft has not previously been reported.
The package could be provided as quickly as six months, Raytheon says.
In the near-term, though, a single Global Hawk would only be able to
perform the SIGINT mission. It wouldn't be able to perform both SIGINT
and other missions simultaneously until later in the aircraft's
development, Raytheon says.
The system would use the same ground stations currently used to process
SIGINT data from the U-2, and the airborne equipment for the Global Hawk
would be similar to what the Air Force is already using on the manned
aircraft, a Raytheon executive said.
"A U-2 equivalent SIGINT system on Global Hawk will permit the Air Force
significantly more flexibility in employing Global Hawk to perform
high-risk missions," said John Nannen, director of business development
for Raytheon Strategic Systems, in an interview.
"The benefit to Air Force is commonality between the U-2 and Global Hawk
SIGINT systems so the existing U-2 maintenance and logistics
infrastructure can be used, and the existing ground stations can be used
without modification," Nannen said.
Electromagnetic vacuum cleaner
The Air Force did not comment before press time Friday.
Signals Intelligence, also known as electronic surveillance, works like
an electromagnetic vacuum cleaner, sucking up radio waves from all and
sundry sources, from radio broadcasts to cell and satellite phone
signals. Large SIGINT platforms such as the RC-135 Rivet Joint, a
converted Boeing 707 airliner, allow for processing on board the
aircraft, where technicians can separate less useful information, such
as Arabic pop music, from, say, communications between terrorists.
A U-2 beams down its collected data to a ground station, where it is
processed and passed on to commanders and decision-makers.
The Global Hawk is a developmental aircraft intended to replace the U-2,
currently the backbone of the Air Force's airborne surveillance systems.
The Air Force has interrupted Global Hawk's development plan for
deployment to Afghanistan, where the high-altitude aircraft is using its
cameras and radar scanners to provide intelligence on Taliban and al
Raytheon's system is basically the same as the one it currently builds
for the U-2, scaled to meet the weight, power, and space available on
the Global Hawk, Nannen said.
The difference is that Global Hawk, at least in its current form, would
not have the capacity to simultaneously perform the same number of
SIGINT functions as the U-2, which produces more electrical power and
carries twice the payload of Global Hawk.
If the Air Force puts the SIGINT package on one of four current Global
Hawk aircraft, which only entered full-scale development in March, power
and payload restrictions would prevent it from carrying other sensors.
"In this case the UAV would be `missionized' for SIGINT and could carry
a full U-2 System," Nannen said.
But the Air Force is pushing Global Hawk's development, trying to field
a more capable Block 10 model-the current version is Block Five-in 2004,
five years sooner than previously planned. Those models would be able to
haul the U-2-equivalent SIGINT package in addition to its usual payload
of electro-optical and infrared cameras and synthetic aperture radar.
"A future system could have even more capability by refreshing the
processing technology of the current U-2 System," Nannen said.
Nannen said Raytheon could provide the SIGINT packages in the near term
because it is already producing the U-2 systems, of which it has
delivered six. The company has removed circuit cards from the hardware
to meet Global Hawk's lower weight and power capabilities. He said the
software has worked equally well with fewer hardware components.
Nannen said it was too early to determine how much the units would cost,
due to unknowns about specific systems and how many would be produced.
He said the ability to "tailor" hardware to the Global Hawk would help
the company meet some cost objectives. Another factor in cost would be
the extent to which the Air Force would want the system to perform
Nannen said a scaled system could be delivered for aircraft integration
in less than six weeks, and modifications to ground equipment, the same
stuff being used now for the U-2 system, will be finished within four
"Other Global Hawk concepts do not consider the ground station so
considerable additional cost and schedule would be required to provide
and operational capability," Nannen said.
Raytheon currently makes the ground segment and some of the sensors for
the Global Hawk.
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