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DARPA Tasks Northrop Grumman To Demonstrate Autonomous Aerial Refueling

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posted on Jul, 5 2010 @ 12:52 PM
Hey ATS, I came about this article which I found interesting and astonishing to say the least.

DARPA announced the award of a $33 million contract to Northrop Grumman to demonstrate aerial refueling of a NASA Global Hawk unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) by a sister ship. The program will be designated KQ-X. Northrop Grumman will retrofit two of the high altitude long endurance (HALE) UAVs, one aircraft pumping fuel into the other in flight through a hose-and-drogue refueling system . The aerial refueling engagement will be completely autonomous. "Demonstrating the refueling of one UAV by another is a historic milestone," said Carl Johnson, vice president, Advanced Concepts for Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems.


That is a huge leap forward and will greatly enhance UAV capabilities, significantly increase their combat radius and mission times.

"It adds aerial refueling to the list of capabilities that can be accomplished autonomously by Global Hawks; it opens the door to greatly expanded operational utility for UAVs; and, as a side benefit, it promises to increase the safety and reliability of aerial refueling between manned aircraft by reducing pilot workload." There are several revolutionary aspects to the KQ-X program. Not only will the aerial refueling be autonomous, but since Global Hawks are HALE UAVs, it will also take place at a much higher altitude than has been previously demonstrated with manned aircraft. It will also be the first time that HALE UAVs have flown in formation.

Most aircraft refueling takes place around the 20,000-30,000ft range, depending on the platform. The Global Hawk can reach altitudes up to 65.000ft (20,000m).

Yours thoughts on this technology?

posted on Jul, 5 2010 @ 01:16 PM
As UAVs patrol the skies, this will be a very common sight. Sorta reminds me of that movie where the rogue robot plane runs out of fuel and heads to an autonomous floating blimp-tanker. Stealth was the name I think. This is some very cool stuff that will give us a edge in present and future conflicts.

posted on Jul, 5 2010 @ 01:30 PM
It opens up the capability of having low observable UAVs loitering much closer to threats than you would ever send a manned tanker.

Imagine an autonomous B2 size UAV tanker supplying fuel to F-35s and F-22. With this technology perfected thats not too far fetched.

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