The trail tanker aircraft successfully
demonstrated precision control in formation with
manual and automated "breakaway" maneuvers,
important safety features and criteria of the
Two Global Hawk
unmanned aircraft successfully flew for the
first time in close formation as close as 30
During the close-formation
flight, the aircraft rendezvoused and flew for
more than 2.5 hours under autonomous formation
control, with the majority of the time within
100 ft (or one wingspan) of each other.
"The technical developments that enabled these
two high-altitude, long-endurance unmanned
Global Hawks in close formation is an
outstanding accomplishment for the AHR program,"
said Fred Ricker, vice president and deputy
general manager for Northrop Grumman Aerospace
Systems' Advanced Programs & Technology.
"Coupled with the advanced design and technical
implementation of aerial refueling systems on
board both aircraft, the demonstration has truly
brought a concept to life, which has the
potential to change the operations for unmanned
aircraft utility and enable mission flexibility
never before realized."
Northrop Grumman and NASA Dryden Flight Research
Center conducted several demonstration flights
in the buildup to the close formation flight,
which included tanker and receiver first flights
and a distant formation flight. The Northrop
Grumman-NASA-DARPA team worked closely to ensure
that all safety precautions and measures were
taken when preparing for and conducting all of
the ground and flight demonstrations.
Preparation included a calculated approach to
ground and flight tests, which included
extensive analysis, simulations, laboratory and
ground tests as well as multiple safety review