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May 15, 2006

Burt Rutan...

...builds some odd airplanes, doesn't he? Genius stuff.

The Proteus takes off from Mojave Airfield near Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., on Thursday, April 27, 2006. It carries the pod that eventually will contain the radar to be used on the Global Hawk unmanned aerial vehicle. A year of testing will begin in September once the radar is installed on Proteus. (U.S. Air Force photo)

The Proteus takes off from Mojave Airfield near Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., on Thursday, April 27, 2006. It carries the pod that eventually will contain the radar to be used on the Global Hawk unmanned aerial vehicle. A year of testing will begin in September once the radar is installed on Proteus. (U.S. Air Force photo)
Next-generation radar to undergo testing aboard Proteus by 1st Lt. Stephen Fox Electronic Systems Center Public Affairs

5/10/2006 - HANSCOM AIR FORCE BASE, Mass. (AFPN) -- A smaller, next-generation radar that will improve the Global Hawk’s surveillance capacity will soon undergo testing aboard a Proteus aircraft here.

The 851st Electronic Systems Group is preparing for a year-long test of the smaller version of the Multi-Platform Radar Technology Insertion Program, or MP-RTIP, aboard the Proteus. The Proteus is a twin-turbofan, high-altitude, multi-mission aircraft similar in size to the Global Hawk.

The MP-RTIP will provide the high-flying Global Hawk advanced surveillance capabilities, including ground and air moving-target indication. The smaller Global Hawk Block 40 version of the radar is the one undergoing initial testing on Proteus. A larger variation, referred to as the E-10 Wide Area Surveillance Sensor, is also being developed for a wide-body manned aircraft.

The first step of the Proteus test process was completed last week at a civilian flight test center at Mojave Airfield near Edwards Air Force Base, Calif. Proteus flew with the pod that will house the radar once tests begin in September. To replicate the weight and characteristics of the radar, the pod contained mass simulators during the safety flight.

"As the pod undergoes installation and safety of flight testing on Proteus, the Global Hawk MP-RTIP radar is in the Systems Integration Lab in El Segundo, Calif. (They are) undergoing final integration where both hardware and software are tested at the system level in preparation for the beginning of flight testing," said Lt. Col. Pete Krawczyk, 638th Electronic Systems Squadron commander.

Once the radar is complete -- about five months down the road -- it will be transported to the test site and installed on the Proteus.

The test radar is identical to the version the Global Hawk will use, but the pod flown on Proteus was much larger to provide space for test equipment. The added portion contains power and cooling units intended to simulate installation on the Global Hawk, according to Maj. Kenneth Butler, chief of the group's Global Hawk MP-RTIP program.

Adding an extra spiral of testing before the Global Hawk integration process is somewhat of a conservative approach designed to reduce risk though a step-by-step test process, the major said.

Proteus is less capable than the Global Hawk, in terms of altitude, airspeed and other performance parameters, but the key to the upcoming test period will be to evaluate the performance of the radar itself rather than the platform, said Col. Dwyer Dennis, 851st Electronic Systems Wing commander.

"MP-RTIP is a family of systems with common software and radar modes," Colonel Dennis said. "The testing that will be completed on Proteus is essentially a risk reduction spiral from which we can glean vital information applicable to every variation of the MP-RTIP radar, whether it is Global Hawk or the E-10."

In September, the radar will be incorporated onto Proteus and the contractor will begin flight testing the various radar modes. These include ground moving target indicator and air moving target indicator -- a capability that tracks moving targets in near real-time -- and synthetic aperture radar, which is a higher resolution still picture, Major Butler said.

The testing will culminate with an eight-week evaluation period during which the Air Force, led by the ESC team, will assess the performance of the radar and determine success or failure based on specific performance parameters.

After the Proteus test, the contractor-government team will evaluate the data and embark on further developmental test and evaluation, during which the MP-RTIP will be integrated onto the Global Hawk platform, the major said.

The MP-RTIP-equipped Global Hawk is scheduled to roll off the production line in about 2011.