But Who Logs The Flight-Time?
The Northrop Grumman-built RQ-5
Hunter unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) proved its value as a reliable
and critical element of the US Army's reconnaissance arsenal by
reaching the 3,000 combat flight-hour milestone last month over the
skies of Baghdad. As of Nov. 2, Hunter has flown nearly 600 combat
sorties totaling more than 3,100 flight hours since its deployment
to Iraq in January 2003.
The Army has extended Hunter's operational deployment through
the first quarter of next year, while continuing its flight test
program at home to demonstrate the system's ability to meet a range
of new mission requirements.
The multirole Hunter tactical UAV was the Army's first fielded
UAV and serves as the service's interim extended-range multipurpose
fixed-wing air vehicle. It allows commanders to look deep into
enemy territory by collecting and relaying real-time
reconnaissance, surveillance, and target-acquisition information
back to ground control and mission monitoring stations. Originally
designed to carry only sensor payloads, Hunter has been modified to
carry munitions as well.
Last month, the Army's Unmanned Aerial Vehicle and Robotics, and
Unmanned Sensors program offices conducted a five-hour flight test
at Ft. Huachuca, Ariz., to demonstrate Hunter's ability to detect,
track and monitor moving objects. The UAV was equipped with an
electro-optical/infrared sensor for the test.
"Hunter's outstanding performance in Operation Iraqi Freedom has
helped us identify several potential new mission opportunities for
the system, including border patrol and homeland security," said
Nick Yorio, Northrop Grumman's director for Advanced Tactical C4I
"The recent flight test demonstrated
the system's ability to track moving objects as small as rabbits
across desert terrain in lighting conditions ranging from darkness
to bright sunlight. This capability would be a valuable asset in
the war against terrorism, both overseas and here at home."
The tracking test follows several other Hunter flight tests
conducted this year by the Army and Northrop Grumman to demonstrate
the performance of several air-vehicle and payload-technology
upgrades including the Brilliant Anti-Tank and Viper Strike
payloads. Northrop Grumman's Electronics Systems sector, Baltimore,
developed both payloads.
Another Hunter upgrade, an extended center wing, is now
installed on units deployed in Iraq. This wing extension prolongs
the endurance of the production UAV to more than 15 hours and gives
it the capability to deploy precision weapons.