SDSU alumni played a prominent role in the success development of the Global Hawk aircraft.
Northrop Grumman's High-Altitude Global Hawk Endurance Unmanned Aerial Vehicle. Courtesy Northrop Grumman
San Diego State University has received a section of the Global Hawk composite wing that was fabricated for the ultimate test during development of the Unmanned Aerial Vehicle.
The wing was dedicated to SDSU by Northrop Grumman in appreciation and recognition of the contributions of its students and alumni to the development of the Global Hawk.
About the Global Hawk
The Global Hawk is a high altitude unmanned reconnaissance air vehicle with high endurance limits. It holds the world record for its class at 33.1 hours without refueling. It is currently used by the U.S. government in military and humanitarian missions around the world.
SDSU, which is the only university receiving a section of this hardware, has played a significant role in the success of the Global Hawk aircraft. Many of its original designers and engineers are SDSU alumni, professors and students who, through research projects, have contributed to its aerodynamics and structural design. Additionally, Northrup Grumman employs more than 400 SDSU graduates, many of whom work on the Global Hawk project.
“There is a very strong connection, technically and emotionally, to San Diego State on this aircraft and all its variants,” said Alfredo Ramirez (’85), Northrop Grumman’s chief engineer/architect on the Global Hawk project. “From the heart and brain of the system, to a lot of the detail work that got done to come up with the design. So I’m very proud to represent San Diego State.”
The Global Hawk aircraft wing is made of advanced composite materials (high modulus GR/EX) and incorporates many new innovations in its design and fabrication of composite aircraft structures. It is the first certified military aircraft that is constructed using an all bonded primary structure.
“This project is very dependent on the workmanship, on the human factors. No matter how well you control the process, how well you understand every element within the process, you still have that human factor,” said Mostafa Pourmand, Northrop Grumman’s Structural Integrity lead on the Air Force’s Global Hawk, and Navy’s Broad Area Maritime Surveillance program.
“Talking about research, that’s one area that our industry is desperately looking for analytical methodology to assess effects of defects on composite material and long term environmental effects on bond line durability and damage tolerance”.
The wing will be used by SDSU faculty and students for teaching purposes and to conduct further research to advance its capabilities for damage detection, structural health prognosis and effective repair procedures for bonded joints in composite airframes.
“Northrup Grumman’s donation will greatly aid in educating aerospace engineering students and providing them the necessary technical skills to work on these airplanes when they graduate,” said Dr. Satchi Venkataraman from SDSU’s aerospace engineering department.
SDSU’s College of Engineering has active research projects in the area of composite structures, adhesively bonded joints, non-destructive inspection and bond-line durability assessment.
At the event organized to dedicate the wing section to SDSU, Northrop Grumman recognized several SDSU alumni who played a major role in the development of this airplane.
In attendance at the dedication were five SDSU alumni who were critical to the project’s success as original inventors of Global Hawk, who Pourmand referred to as “The Fab Five,” including Ramirez, Doug Fronius, Herman Altman, Wes Dreyer and Warren Lang. Steven Crabb who was hired by Northrop Grumman as a student intern, and has become one of the main contributors in winning the new Navy contract for BAMS, a variant of the Global Hawk, was also recognized at the event.
“We appreciate San Diego State for making such a great workforce for us,” Pourmand said. “And also for being so collaborative in many other respects.”