According to a press release from Northrop Grumman, the massive drone RQ-4 RangeHawk will soon assist in the development of hypersonic missiles in the United States.
The development of hypersonic missiles is the newest frontier in the arms race, with nations like North Korea and Russia claiming to have successfully tested this technology. The American hypersonic missile program has seen some setbacks due to frequent test failures. Nearly a year after Russian claims to have tested its Air-launched Rapid Response Weapon (ARRW) effectively, the U.S. Air Force announced last month that it had.
The Department of Defense Test Resource Management Center (TRMC) has now requested access to Northrop Grumman’s enormous drone, the RQ-4 RangeHawk, in an effort to advance its hypersonic missile development.
What exactly is an RQ-4 RangeHawk?
The RQ-4 is a high-altitude, long-endurance (HALE) platform employed by the U.S. Air Force and is more commonly referred to by the name GlobalHawk. The maiden flight of this remotely piloted surveillance aircraft occurred in 1998, and the U.S. Navy has modified it for use in their fleet.
The RQ-4B drone, which has a wingspan of 130.9 feet (39.9 m) and a length of 47.7 feet, was created using a modified version of the original design (14.5 m). The MQ-9 Reaper is approximately half as big, with a 66-foot (20-meter) wingspan.
A single Rolls-Royce F-137 turbofan engine powers the RQ-4, providing 7,600 lbf (34 kN) of thrust, 14,200 miles (22,800 km) of range, and 34 hours of endurance.
driving the development of hypersonic missiles
The U.S. Air Force has chosen to retire its GlobalHawks by 2027 after years of service, The Drive reported last year. According to a press release from Northrop Grumman, Block 20 and Block 30 RQ-4B Global Hawk aircraft are currently being moved to SkyRange, TRMC’s unmanned, HALE mobile test system, where they will be converted into RangeHawks.
The aircraft will be outfitted with cutting-edge payloads during the reconfiguration to facilitate the testing of hypersonic vehicles and other long-range weapons. According to the manufacturer, the RangeHawks’ “over-the-horizon height, endurance, and flexibility” will be crucial for gathering telemetry and other data for the hypersonic vehicles.
Sensors from ships have been used in earlier testing of these vehicles. According to a press release, the sensors installed aboard RangeHawks will offer an alternate data-collection support system that has already been tested in the Pacific and other locations.
“As we develop crucial national security capabilities, Northrop Grumman’s RangeHawk is ideally suited to collect data because it offers persistent time-on-station closer to the flight path and agility to adapt to the dynamics of a testing environment “said George Rumford, the TRMC’s principal deputy and acting director. “The Department of Defense will be able to speed up testing of hypersonic devices thanks to SkyRange.
According to the press release, Northrop Grumman is also collaborating with NASA at the Armstrong Flight Research Center at Edwards Air Force Base to oversee the operations of its RQ-4A fleet and to create new payloads for its RQ-4B aircraft.