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C4iSR: Air

UTC's MS-177 built for high-altitude sensing and future growth

12 March 2017

United Technologies Corporation (UTC) Aerospace Systems is transitioning its MS-177 multi-spectral sensor from a 7- to 10-band configuration, now designated the MS-177A.

UTC Aerospace is in the process of building the 10-band version of its MS-177 sensor. In February, Northrup Grumman and UTC demonstrated a seven-band version of the sensor during flight tests onboard an RQ-4 Global Hawk. (UTC Aerospace Systems)UTC Aerospace is in the process of building the 10-band version of its MS-177 sensor. In February, Northrup Grumman and UTC demonstrated a seven-band version of the sensor during flight tests onboard an RQ-4 Global Hawk. (UTC Aerospace Systems)

The systems will be integrated onto the Northrop Grumman RQ-4 Global Hawk, and the first flight test of the 7-band sensor aboard the high-altitude, long-endurance unmanned aerial vehicle took place on 8 February.

The US Air Force is expected to begin formal development testing of Global Hawk and the MS-177 sensor in April, at Edwards Air Force Base in California. Those tests are intended to demonstrate that the system meets the air force's requirements.

The MS-177 is a very large 177 in focal length system that weighs slightly more than 400 lbs, Kevin Raftery, vice president and general manager of UTC Aerospace Systems, ISR, and Space Systems, told Jane's on 9 March.

UTC spent around two years assessing the technology, customer requirements, and future needs so that when it initially developed the MS-177, it made sure there were provisions within the architecture to enable low-cost, low-risk enhancements as the requirements, capabilities, or technologies changed. In fact, Raftery noted, the design of a system like that takes three to five years after establishing the basic architecture.

"These sensors are long development [items] and are very expensive. When customers make commitments to it they want to make sure it is not going to become obsolete," Raftery said. "We can affordably make improvements without having to re-design or re-manufacture the whole system. You're forward thinking so that you put [in] enough space, power, and processing needs to give us the ability to do that. It is the same approach we used with DB-110."

In fact, Raftery noted that some of the MS-177's capabilities were first demonstrated on the DB-110 dual-band airborne reconnaissance sensor, which is a derivative of the Senior Year Electro-Optical Reconnaissance System (SYERS) flown aboard the U-2 aircraft.

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