Northrop Grumman Corporation’s RQ-4 Global Hawk Ground Segment Modernization Program (GSMP), currently in integration and testing following a successful first flight in 2020, provides new cockpit displays that enhance situational awareness for the pilot and sensor operator while improving overall mission capabilities. GSMP is part of a series of Global Hawk modernization efforts that will enhance the ability of the system to monitor and deter near-peer and peer threats around the globe. The system is on schedule to complete operational test and evaluation in October 2022.
Leveraging agile development and an open architecture design, the GSMP team transformed both the human-machine interface and the underlying software, paving the way for interoperability with other Air Force systems, enhanced responsiveness to ad hoc tasking, and lower impact updates in the future. The modernized Global Hawk ground stations will revolutionize the operator experience with new cockpit displays, the ability to fly all Global Hawk variants without software or configuration changes, simpler maintenance interfaces, and improved situational awareness and environmental conditions for pilots and sensor operators.
The RQ-4 Global Hawk unmanned aircraft system (UAS) is the premier provider of persistent intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance information. Able to fly at high altitudes for greater than 30 hours, Global Hawk is designed to gather near-real-time, high-resolution imagery of large areas of land in all types of weather – day or night. Beyond intelligence collection a portion of the Global Hawk fleet is engaged in supporting air and ground users with communications relay support. The EQ-4B Global Hawk carries the Battlefield Airborne Communications Node (BACN) payload providing life-saving support to warfighters.
Global Hawk has amassed more than 250,000 flight hours with missions flown in support of military operations in Iraq, Afghanistan, North Africa, and the greater Asia-Pacific region. The system provides an affordable and flexible platform for multiple sensor payloads to be used together, delivering mission-critical information to various users around the world. In active operation with the U.S. Air Force since 2001, Global Hawk sees potential threats to allow commanders to gain greater understanding of an area of interest. These same intelligence-gathering capabilities also allow civil authorities greater ability to respond to natural disasters, conduct search-and-rescue operations and gather weather and atmospheric data to help forecasters predict the paths of storms.