The US Air Force (USAF) has successfully completed the first risk reduction flight test of the Maritime Modes programme at Hanscom Air Force Base, Massachusetts, moving a step forward towards deployment of a new air-sea battle surveillance capability.

The 11.5 hour sortie over the US Navy’s Point Mugu sea range in California using a Northrop Grumman test RQ-4B Global Hawk Block 40 remotely piloted aircraft (RPA), evaluated more than 100 items of interest.

During the test flight, the maritime inverse synthetic aperture radar (MISAR), which is one of the two components of the Maritime Modes system, collected data on assets and moving targets on the water.

MISAR works with the Maritime Moving Target Indicator to provide intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) information on vessels travelling on the water’s surface.

Maritime Modes programme materiel leader Lieutenant Colonel Michael Harm said the technology would significantly increase combatants’ ability to observe moving and stationary targets of interest in open and littoral waters.

"These targets can then be categorised and tracked, and their respective details can distributed via appropriate channels," Harm added.

Maritime Modes programme manager Frank Hertler said the capability would enhance the existing multi-platform radar technology insertion programme’s (MP-RTIP) ground surveillance and provide combatants with a complete ground, coastal and open seas picture.

"The system will be able to detect, track, classify and build a profile from where the vessel came from as well as have the ability to see much smaller marine vehicles," Hertler added.

The USAF is currently analysing flight test data to determine initial performance, stability and necessary fixes prior to entering the development test and evaluation phase.

Developed by an Air Force Life Cycle Management Center team, the Maritime Modes is a NATO Alliance Ground Surveillance (AGS) programme requirement, and will eventually be integrated with the USAF Global Hawk Block 40 baseline.

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