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​Northrop Grumman has begun flight testing of the MS-177 sensor payload with a successful inaugural flight on an RQ-4 Global Hawk high altitude, long endurance autonomous aircraft system. Northrop Grumman photo.

​Northrop Grumman has begun flight testing its new MS-177 multi-spectral sensor for the RQ-4 Global Hawk remotely piloted aircraft, the company announced Wednesday. The sensor will improve RQ-4 targeting capabilities, and Northrop said it has completed a “successful inaugural flight” at its Palmdale, Calif., facility. Taken together with the recently successful demonstrations of the SYERS-2 intelligence sensor and an Optical Bar Camera, Northrop’s upgrades to the RQ-4’s capabilities are aimed at priming the unmanned platform to take over the mission set of the manned U-2 reconnaissance aircraft, which specializes in high altitude, long endurance ISR flights. “The MS-177 is the new benchmark in imaging intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance sensors and its integration into the Global Hawk platform expands the mission capability we can provide,” said Mick Jaggers, vice president and program manager of the Global Hawk program, in a company press release. “This successful flight is another milestone in an aggressive effort to demonstrate Global Hawk’s versatility and effectiveness in carrying a variety of sensor payloads and support establishing OMS compliancy.” Testing will continue through June, according to the release.