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US Air Force moves ahead with new SIGINT sensor prototypes

A nose view of the RQ-4 Global Hawk Block 20 AV 04 2015 that shows the types enlarged under fuselage sensor housing and the provision for SIGINT antennas built into both sides of its forward fuselage. (Northrop Grumman Corporation)

The US Air Force (USAF) is moving headlong into the prototype phase of the service's new, open architecture-based signals intelligence (SIGINT) programme, tapping Northrop Grumman and BAE Systems to develop the sensor hardware and networking backbone in support of the effort.

Engineers at BAE Systems and Northrop Grumman will provide prototype SIGINT sensor platforms for the USAF's Global High-altitude Open-system Sensor Technology (GHOST) programme, according to statements by both defence companies. Based on a scalable, open systems architecture and an expeditionary chassis, the eventual SIGINT sensor platform fielded under the GHOST programme will enable service officials to employ the sensor on a variety of manned and unmanned aerial systems within the USAF's intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) arsenal.

Company officials at BAE Systems are preparing its “Phase One” offering for the GHOST programme, focusing on “a sensor prototype that ... will exploit the radio-frequency (RF) spectrum, critical to battlefield superiority, to detect, identify, locate, and track RF emissions”, according to a company statement. For their part, Northrop Grumman programme officials are preparing a phase one offering that will incorporate “airborne and ground components” to meet the GHOST programme requirements, a company statement said.

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