Raytheon to modernize Global Hawk ground control stations

By Patrick C. Miller | September 15, 2016

The ground control station built by the Raytheon Co. for the U.S. Air Force’s Northrop Grumman Global Hawk will receive a major modernization upgrade to improve its capabilities and flexibility.

“It’s modernizing the existing system, not building one from scratch,” said Bob Dehnert, director of command, control and awareness with Raytheon Intelligence, Information and Services. “We’re capitalizing on a lot of work that we’ve done in the past. We’re refactoring the software to make it service oriented with the ability to rapidly drop in new services, new capabilities and make it much more flexible.”

The $104 million modernization subcontract runs through 2019 and will see the ground control station shelters at Beale Air Force Base in California and the Grand Forks Air Force Base in North Dakota replaced with buildings. Dehnert said the new facilities will have a smaller footprint while being more ergonomic for the Global Hawk aircrews and less expensive to maintain.  

The modernized system will also have the ability to control not only the Global Hawk, but also current Air Force unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) and those that might be acquired in the future. Dehnert said the system can also be used for the U.S. Navy’s Triton, its version of the Global Hawk.

“We think it will be so flexible that it will be an ideal candidate for all Air Force unmanned vehicles,” he explained. “That’s where the future’s headed, and the Navy has to go there quickly because they can’t afford the real estate of a lot of different systems.”

Dehnert said the architecture of the new station will enable it to be adopted for other UAS such as the General Atomics Predator and Reaper aircraft flown by the Air Force and U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

“Technically, it can certainly do that for not a lot of cost,” Dehnert said. “Because we can fly a helicopter and a high-altitude aircraft from the same architectural software, it’s not a technical stretch at all to do a prop-driven airplane.”

Raytheon expects the upgraded ground control station to support UAS not yet in the government’s inventory.

“For new unmanned aircraft, it would save a lot money rather than having the manufacturer build their own ground control station from scratch,” Dehnert said.

Raytheon has partnered with Northrop Grumman since the 1990s as the ground integrator for Global Hawk contracts.

Global Hawk’s modernized mission control stations will use an open architecture to give the Air Force the flexibility to add different mission payloads and new platforms. Denhert said the new graphical user interface (GUI) is more user friendly.

“You get all the flexibility of adding different missions and different payloads,” he said. “It has built-in scalability to be able to accept broad and newer missions, while including improved safety features and cutting-edge cybersecurity.”

Raytheon builds unmanned command and control systems across the U.S. military. The company recently announced the Navy’s MQ-8 deployment aboard the USS Coronado, with advanced control stations based on the same open architecture model that will be used by the Air Force.

“The Raytheon and Northrop Grumman team delivers innovative solutions that help the Air Force develop critical battlefield intelligence capability,” said Todd Probert, vice president of Mission Support and Modernization at Raytheon Intelligence, Information and Services (IIS). “We modernize systems with a unique approach that enhances the mission and reduces overall costs.”


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