The U.S. Air Force and Navy are looking at ways to boost surveillance and intelligence gathering by integrating two very similar drones -- the Air Force’s RQ-4 Global Hawk and the Navy’s MQ-4C Triton.
“Clearly it’s a common platform. I think there are opportunities,” Air Force Gen. Frank Gorenc, commander of U.S. Air Forces in Europe, told reporters this week.
Gorenc, who spoke during a breakfast with defense reporters on Tuesday in Washington, D.C., said he wants to learn about ways to integrate the two remotely piloted aircraft systems.
Northup Grumman Corp. makes both variants of the drone. The intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance aircraft have identical airframes, including the same wingspan, length and height, the same maximum takeoff weight of 32,250 pounds and same 60,000-foot ceiling.
Both also have Rolls Royce engines -- though not the same model -- and the Global Hawk’s range is greater than Triton's --12,300 nautical miles versus 8,200. Among other difference, the Air Force variant flies with a ground crew of three. The Navy’s Triton requires a four-person team on the ground.
But the Triton was specially engineered for maritime service.
Modifications from the Air Force variant include protection against ice build-up, bird strikes and lightning to meet planned mission profiles and a due-regard radar for safe separation from other aircraft.
“There are logistical requirements for those airplanes, with respect to controlling and data and all that kind of stuff,” Gorenc said. "But clearly there are opportunities."