The Department of Defense has contracted Northrop Grumman to reconfigure four US Air Force Global Hawk unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) with sensors for tracking hypersonic weapon tests under the SkyRange program.
Program administrators intend to use multiple reconfigured Global Hawks and MQ-9 Reapers “for maritime range clearing and the capture of real-time telemetry, full-motion video, weather data and terminal scoring of the weapon system under test.”
Upgrade of Hypersonic Testing Capacity
The deployment of drones is expected to improve the Pentagon’s current ship-based capacity to test hypersonic weapons. According to a release from the office of Senator John Hoeven (R) of North Dakota, the “DoD is only able to conduct four to six tests per year, as it takes several weeks to deploy and position the ships for each test.”
Following the announcement, Hoeven remarked that the repurposed UAS “will save the Armed Forces time and money in developing these new missiles, as the new Range Hawks will be much more efficient than the current ship-based test range and support additional options for conducting tests.”
The modification work is expected to be carried out at Northrop’s Grand Sky facility near Grand Forks, North Dakota.